Set in 19th century New York, Rebel Mechanics is an enjoyable steampunk-lite tale based in an alternate America, where magic and machines collide. (Not literally, of course.)
The British colonialists and American elites are magic uses, who keep the rest of society dependent upon them. A group of enterprising engineers and students, meanwhile, rebel by building their own steam-powered machines, which will enable them to break the hold of the magisters and British rule by generating their own power, transport, and the like, which won’t be dependent on magic to work.
Our protagonist is the sixteen-year-old Verity Newton, who has a number of secrets of her own, and arrives in the city seeking employment as a governess. She lands a position with a rather important magister family, where she’ll be required to look after three orphaned children, in their care of their kooky scientist uncle, Henry.
Verity becomes entangled with the rebels; making friends, gaining a handsome suitor, writing articles for their unofficial newspaper, and ultimately becoming a spy for their organization, what with her connections to those in power via her position as governess.
She has to juggle her double life, making sure to remain inconspicuous with her host family while slipping messages to the rebels. At the same time, Verity has also figured out that she might not be the only one in the household with a double life, as her employer, Lord Henry, appears to have some interesting extra-curricular activities.
Verity starts out as a rather naïve character, but she’s earnest and sensible, and comes across as mature for her age, if a tad bland. All in all, this was an enjoyable read, but it came across as a rather tame – the writing failed to grip me, so that even in the midst of what was supposed to be an exciting chase through the streets of New York, involving police and extraordinary machines, I remained fairly indifferent.