[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]
An interesting retelling of "Cinderella", in that it veers away from the traditional Happy Ever After being brough by Finding True Love. Not that love isn't nice, but I've always found it a bit... lackluster, in that it feels like a deus ex machina—why would there be any need for resourceful, smart, brave characters, right, since Love is meant to care of everything in the end! So this novel was a definite good change of pace, with Nick/Nicolette/Mechanica basically doing things herself, laying down her own plans and acting on them to get her own workshop. She was determined to reclaim her own life, without waiting on Prince Charming to come to the rescue, and I particularly liked that she realised this and chose her own path when other characters tried to force her into that particular mould.
Last but not least, the story focuses on friendship as a possible form of "love", which isn't something that I've seen that often in YA books, which too often only consider the couple aspect. Yet love has so many variations, offers so many possibilities...
The world itself was also intriguing, with its mix of steampunk-ish science and faerie wares, with the Fae getting the short end of the stick after having seen their lands conquered by the humans. It was a shame these two civilisations couldn't coexist peacefully, and it raises the question of whether this could've been possible or not, or maybe if one of the sides (or both?) deliberately tried to sabotage relationships. Nick's recollection of her childhood, of the family's housekeeper, of her mother's works—mixing technology and possibly a bit of magic—gave quite a few insights into how things degraded.
However, while the ideas carried through this retelling are excellent, I couldn't help but be bored at times, as the story progressed rather slowly without exactly more than the basic original plot. Nicolette's thoughts were not always the most interesting, and even though a Cinderella is supposed to be a solitary creature, so to speak, isolated from the world because of her step family, this resulted in maybe just a little too much beating around the bush. I think more interactions with Caro and Fin would have spiced up things a little, especially considering the relationship that developed between these three characters. Genuine female friendship, and none of the insta-dislike of the other girl because here's a rival? Hell yeah. On the other hand, the lack of interactions in general made a certain love story border more on insta-love than anything else (not to mention that it developed in Nick's fantasies more than "in real life").
The other major "negative" point for me was how so many threads were left dangling. I'm not sure at all if this book is supposed to be a standalone or not. If it isn't, it wasn't made clear enough. If it is, then these plot points should've been resolved. The Ashes, more specifically, remain a mystery. What about the king's latest decision regarding Faerie? And while the latter was a good element to include, somehow more details about the Fey themselves would've been a nice addition (and nice opportunities for twists and turns): revolution, trying to break the embargo, whatever... Only it didn't happen. Here's to hope it will happen in a next volume...
3 stars for the empowering message delivered throughout (make your own life, love yourself, don't wait on a man to save you), and because I like machines and trinkets. Nevertheless, as it was rather uneventful, I didn't enjoy it as much as I would've otherwise.