The Plot: This is the third installment in Cross’s steampunk series about a group of friends with supernatural powers. When the mechanically gifted Emily is captured by a gang of automatons, it becomes clear that the evil genius known as The Machinist is not as dead as everyone had hoped. To rescue Emily, her friends — Finley, Griffin, Jasper, and Sam — must ally themselves with ghosts, criminals and an automaton girl who is rapidly becoming more human than machine.
The author: Kady Cross is a pseudonym of romance novelist Kathryn Smith. She has written more than a dozen paranormal and historical romance novels for various publishers, some of them bestsellers. She lives in Connecticut with husband Steve and two cats.
Why It’s Awesome: Cross is enjoyably inventive with the world she has created, an alternative turn-of-the-20th-century London peopled by semi-sentient machines and within reach of the ghost world known as the aether. She has done enough historical research to make the setting feel grounded, but doesn’t let that research constrain her imagination. The book is a great summer read, zipping along from plot point to plot point without a dull moment.
Cross also has a knack for description, painting things vividly without getting bogged down in long descriptive passages. Fashion can be a big part of steampunk, and Cross works in descriptions of what everyone’s wearing very smoothly. This volume also enjoyably ups the romance quotient without ever really straying past a PG-13 level.
Why It’s Not Awesome: The quality of the writing is not top-notch. I don’t go to a novel from Harlequin Teen expecting Middlemarch, but this volume in particular felt occasionally sloppy. Characters had repetitive conversations, and there were a few odd plot movements, such as the virtually unexplained reappearance of Wildcat just before the climax of the book. The old writing maxim of “show, don’t tell,” is too often ignored. In all, the book reads like a draft of a very good novel rather than the finished thing.
The Final Judgment: A fun summer read, but not as well-written as it could be.