Author: L.S. Kilroy
Publisher: Little Tree Press
Length: 240 pages
"I don't want to live in a world where I can't write, where I'm considered inferior, where I'm at the mercy of men all the time."
First, a series of natural disasters devastated the land. Then came the famine. Soon, fear and panic spread throughout the United States. And out of the rubble of a broken nation, rose an empire. That is how Vitruvia was born.
Vitruvia, established during the regime of a heartless emperor and governed by an arrogant ruling class. Here society has regressed to repressive Victorian standards. Women have slowly lost their rights and those who rebel are severely punished. Bishops and lords impose their will on the segregated regions, but no one pays much heed to the Nits - rundown areas often unofficially policed by bribed criminals and inhabited by the poor, the desperate, and the dregs of society.
Lorelei Fetherston is a daughter of the aristocracy. Inherently rebellious, eighteen-year-old Lore is torn between accepting her impending role as a dutiful wife or escaping to the bordering nation of Hopespoke to seek the truth behind her grandmother's secret legacy. There everyone is free and, according to legend, an enigmatic woman runs an underground squadron of girls and wields much influence. There Lore could pursue her writing without fear of punishment. But this isn't her only dilemma. Following graduation, she is to wed to her childhood friend, Gideon, but her heart is with their mutual best friend, Fallon, the current emperor's ward and heir to the throne.
Then one fateful night everything changes. Her free-spirited friend, Sawyer, is in grave danger and Lore is forced to make a critical decision. From mysterious woodland strangers to underground clubs to spectacular fêtes and a clandestine rebellion, Lore's life is about to change forever...that is, if she can survive.
Protagonist: Lore lives in the female repressed and culturally regressed country of Vitruvia. As a woman she has little to no rights and once she's married, she'll essentially become a prisoner inside her husband's home, but after discovering her grandmother's secret rebellious nature, something sparks within her, a knowledge that the world she lives in is unjust and she longs to be free to be herself. While Lore has a bit of rebellion in her heart from the beginning, it's not until a bit further into the book that her true self and character comes out. Her development, while a tad sporadic at times, is pretty solid and probably only seems so because of the irregular storytelling.
Romance: To say that this romance is unconventional and unique is an understatement. So while there seems to be a love triangle judging by the synopsis, that's not entirely true. There is a love triangle of sorts, but it doesn't subscribe to typical love triangle tropes. Instead I was confused at quite what would happen with the romance. It's hard to explain, but it was very compelling and entertaining to read.
Story Structure: So first I want to start of by mentioning that this book is told in three parts, that really felt like a trilogy of novellas rather than three parts of one novel, this wasn't bad, just something that I noticed. This story is told rather unevenly. For the first part it's more or less told chronologically, however after that there are time jumps with flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces. I don't think it would have made much of a difference if it was told chronologically, maybe less confusing as the flashbacks were sometimes quite lengthy and so jumping right back into the present would be jarring. As well as flashbacks there are also stories that Lore collects from the girls she meets, of their trials and tribulations. These I found very entertaining as I'm always a sucker for character backstory.
World-Building: This world of Victorian, mixed with a bit of Edwardian, Steampunk was very well crafted. There is a feminist message in this story, but it's not preachy and it's not pushing anything upon the reader, in fact I quite enjoyed it. The various stories Lore collects give various views on this world and help round it out. If I had to compare this book, at least with tone and perhaps writing style wise, I'd say it reminded me a lot of the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver, except with a much more wrapped up ending.
Predictability: I'd say on the whole this book was very hard to predict. Maybe a few things here or there, maybe a suspicion turned out to be right. However since this book strays from classic YA tropes and cliches it was very hard to see quite where the story was going to turn. This made for some awesome twists, certain characters that were putting on acts to seem nicer or even meaner were very convincing, There weren't too many large twists, things that made me drop my jaw in surprise, but the story was nonetheless entertaining.
Ending: So while I wouldn't say that every single one of my questions concerning these characters and this world were answered, I would say that I was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable I felt with this ending. Would I love to see more of this world and these characters, of course I would, but all the same if I were to never see beyond the epilogue, I'd be okay with that as well.
So this wasn't all that hard to rate. The story was spectacular, my only real complaint is the abundance of flashbacks and time jumps which due to flashback length could be jarring after being thrust back into the present, Overall however I highly recommend this book to lovers of steampunk, fierce and strong heroines, and the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver.