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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"The Inventor's Secret: Inventor's Secret 1" by Andrea Cremer (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Andrea Cremer's Official Website Here

 OVERVIEW: In this world, sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth, they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape  or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empire’s Machineworks.

The Inventor’s Secret is the first book of a YA steampunk series set in an alternate nineteenth-century North America where the Revolutionary War never took place and the British Empire has expanded into a global juggernaut propelled by marvelous and horrible machinery. Perfect for fans of Libba Bray's The Diviners, Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel, ScottWesterfeld's Leviathan and Phillip Reeve's Mortal Instruments.

FORMAT: Inventor's Secret is the first novel in a new series by Andrea Cremer. It is a YA novel with steampunk, alternative history, and romance elements. It stands at 368 pages and was published April 22, 2014 by Philomel.

ANALYSIS: Inventor's Secret sounds like an amazing premise for an alternate history YA novel. Add in the fact that the author is experienced and already has popular YA series under her belt, and this first book of a new series should have been a hit. Unfortunately, a lack of world-building and frustrating characters makes Inventor's Secret an alright novel when it had potential to be great.

Inventor's Secret is supposed to take place in an alternative world where the US lost the Revolutionary War. Even though America or the Patriots lost, some of them continue to fight against the British Empire and all that it stands for. They have setup a system that allows children of those fighting to hide underground until they age out. When they age out, they too must join the front lines and fight.

Unfortunately, that is really all that readers are given into the 'history' or background setup for the novel. There is no real explanation of why the British Empire is bad, what the Patriots are fighting for (yes they are fighting against what Britain stands for, but what is that), and how far does Britain's power reach. It appears Britain has this floating city of sorts which is located roughly where NYC is, but that couldn't possibly be the entire area that made up Britain's rule.

Cremer does an amazing job of developing what life is like on this floating city and some of its levels, but a lot is left to the imagination. This makes readers – like myself – struggle to grasp the severity of some situations. Why is the British Empire so bad? What are the Patriots doing to stop it and what is their plan for the future?

In addition to the lack of development of the backstory, the entire setup of the world that the novel takes place in is confusing. The British Empire or the area that we are introduced to has this very confusing mix of Greek mythology, Christian gods, and steampunk. It really felt like all of a sudden the author went – 'I should throw some Greek mythology into the mix just to spice things up'.

The Greek mythology just does not gel with the setting, characters, or world that is created. It seemed forced and a bit random.

Most of Inventor's Secret focused not on adventure and excitement or even world building, but on a very forced, illogical romance between the main character Charlotte and Jack. Charlotte and Jack have always hated each other and got on each other's nerves. That is until Charlotte must dress up and pretend to be a high society lady. The minute she puts a dress on Jack falls madly in love with her and she too feels the same. This wasn't a developing romance. No, this was a madly in love, professing love to each other and 'feeling it is right' romance.

While a few things – that I will not reveal as I do not wish to spoil the book – prevented the romance from blossoming, it just really seemed forced and not fully developed. I struggled to understand how Charlotte felt the way she did and so strongly in such a short time. Maybe this was because I really didn't care for Jack at all, as he did nothing to make him likeable or maybe it was just how fast it was developed.

There are a few things good about Inventor's Secret. Once readers get passed the sluggish first set of chapters, it moves at a rapid pace. There is a lot of dialogue between characters and the steampunk setting is fun and fresh, but many readers might struggle with the lack of world building and character development.

Overall, I thought the novel was alright. I think for a first book in a series it could have been better. I feel the author tried to accomplish too much in terms of creating a unique alternative history, background, romance, and conflict. Unfortunately, in her effort to tackle all of these things it led to most of them feeling forced and underdeveloped.

Inventor's Secret will probably appeal to teens and fans of Cremer's previous books, but unless dramatic changes are made I don't really see it appealing to a bigger audience. I will probably try the second book in the series, but it isn't a priority.


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