Feisty teenage thief Maeko and her maybe-more-than-friend Chaff have scraped out an existence in Victorian London’s gritty streets, but after a near-disastrous heist leads her to a mysterious clockwork cat and two dead bodies, she’s thrust into a murder mystery that may cost her everything she holds dear.
Her only allies are Chaff, the cat, and Ash, the son of the only murder suspect, who offers her enough money to finally get off the streets if she’ll help him find the real killer.
What starts as a simple search ultimately reveals a conspiracy stretching across the entire city. And as Maeko and Chaff discover feelings for each other neither was prepared to admit, she’s forced to choose whether she’ll stay with him or finally escape the life of a street rat. But with danger closing in around them, the only way any of them will get out of this alive is if all of them work together.
My thoughts on the book:
I went into The Girl and the Clockwork Cat thinking it'd be a cute, light story to read, but it's so much more than that. McCormack combines two of my favorite things (steampunk and cats). Also, she doesn't pull any punches when it comes to dealing with life on the streets, and her sensory descriptions make Maeko's life seem very real. The characters themselves also come across a realistic and easy to relate to. Furthermore, McCormack's world-building is top notch. I really enjoyed every aspect of this book.
Maeko is a terrific leading lady. She's strong and independent. She doesn't compromise herself or her values for anyone. Maeko is no damsel in distress, so this isn't your typical rebellious and impoverished girl meets rich guy who takes her in and saves her. Nope. Maeko doesn't need saving, and if she did, she'd save herself. Yes, she worries about what people think sometimes, but don't we all? She still holds fast to what she believes, for the most part. However, her beliefs do change over the course of the novel. Maeko grows a lot in this book, and I can't wait to see what she chooses to do next. Ash is an okay love interest, but I really loved Chaff. He's a good guy, even if he is a little rough around the edges. Chaff has had a rough life, but he's not angsty, and I respected that. Ash is a bit of a pansy, in my opinion, but he does toughen up as the novel progresses. I also adored Macack, the cat. He has tons of personality.
The story itself is intriguing and unique. I really liked the feeling of suspense about the murders and not knowing who could and could not be trusted. I also enjoyed McCormack's world-building. I felt like I was in Victorian London. The author even uses English colloquialisms, which give the entire story an air of authenticity that many books set in London lack. The writing is fluid and the pacing is top notch. I was never bored and nothing felt rushed. There is a bit of a love triangle, but this book doesn't focus much on romance. The love triangle itself is more about Maeko deciding what kind of life she wants (does she want to stay on the streets or have a more comfortable life?) than it is about which boy Maeko has a bigger crush on. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, which left me hoping the next installment comes out soon.
Overall, I'd recommend this story to anyone who loves a good steampunk read, but is looking for something a little bit different. This book has heart, and it is easy to get lost in the world that McCormack created. Do yourself a favor and give this novel a try.
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