Rebel Mechanics is a sweet little romance with steampunk trappings. It reads very much like a YA historical – just with alternate universe US in which the British government won the war through magic. Our heroine is naive and fresh and has to navigate the big city of New Pittsburgh. Along the way, she’ll take care of a young nobleman’s family and make new friends – who happen to be participating in a rebellion against the British government.
Story: Verity travels to the big city in order to secure a governess job. The day she arrives, she meets several people her age who, it turns out, are secretly involved with a rebellion against the British Magisters who govern the US. They want to replace magic with machinery but the Magisters, recognizing that it will compete with their magic, try to do all they can to hinder the inventors. Verity secures a position at the home of a young Magister and is soon able to spy at all the levels of the government. But as she comes to love her new charges, she is also drawn more and more into the rebellion.
The story reads cleanly and the characters are all fairly nice and innocent. As such, the characters all work at a very shallow level. The steampunk here is more a catalyst of American spirit than an actual entity of the worldbuilding in this alternate universe Pittsburgh. But there are some clever ideas thrown in and certainly author Swendson has fun with the inventions.
Admittedly, I tend to want characters to be less sweet and more nuanced. Verity is an ingenue, her Magister employer predictably sweet, and the kids up to “Sound of Music” type shenanigans. Fortunately, there is no love triangle here though the romance does lack chemistry/is insta-luv. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.