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YA Steampunk | Book Review: Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

Rebel Mechanics finally fills the gaping YA steampunk void!

Book Review: Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

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rebel mechanics shanna swendson book review

Title & Author: Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and Revolution by Shanna Swendson

Genre: Young Adult – Steampunk, Historical Fiction

Release Date: July 14, 2015

Series: First in a series?

Publisher: Macmillan

How I Got the Book: ARC via the publisher


“A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.

It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children’s young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.”

Alternate History Steampunk

Rebel Mechanics is the first steampunk book I’ve read in a long time. A few years ago, it was a more popular YA theme, but it’s died out a bit since then.

I’m so glad I read this book. It was just what I needed – a well-written mystery with a winning heroine.

Ok – so let’s talk setting. What sets Rebel Mechanics apart is that it’s not only steampunk (“a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology”) but it’s also an alternate history story.

The book answers the question: What if those in charge during the colonizing of America ruled with magic instead of might? I thought this aspect of the book was very well thought out and was easy to understand despite changing a huge part of history.

The governess aspect of the novel reminded me of Jane Eyre, which is referenced in the book as a nod to Bronte.

There’s a whimsical nature inherent in steam-powered machines – it reminds me of trains whipping through the countryside and hot air balloons. This book invokes that sense not just by mentioning the those objects but through language and situations.

Verity, the main character, is a very upright, formal sort of person, which makes her admirable instead of stuffy. She’s definitely a governess type, but she’s also pretty and funny so everything’s balanced out.

I loved the spying and scheming and that the rebel cause isn’t portrayed as all-knowing or perfect. And the addition of magic made the story extra special – so many unanswered questions. There BETTER be a book 2!

My one and only complaint was that the political back and forth was dense at times, but it was easy to parse out if I was interested or skip over if I wasn’t depending on my mood.


I really enjoyed this steampunk alternate history story. Rebel Mechanics has a fantastic setting with all the spies, steam and spunk I wanted and needed – definitely recommended.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.