Alas for wasted potential. I keep wavering on whether this deserves that extra half star. (Half star removed. Sigh.) It was cute and entertaining, but I'm seriously disappointed by the lack of plot. I am now 100% convinced the person who wrote the blurb didn't read the book, because the story that was advertised was not the same one I read.
What I liked:
Claire for the first 1/3 of the novel. She starts out as a very likable character, the typical upper class rebel who wants to attend university rather than make a suitable marriage, much to her mother's dismay. For the first third of the novel, I found Claire to be pretty adorkable.
The setting. It's kind of hard to go wrong with Victorian England. In this alternate history, petroleum can't compete with steam and electric power. Trains, automobiles, air ships (air ships! ♥), and the Steampunk equivalent of the robot vacuum all run on steam or "electrick cells". The Prime Minister is a near relation of Charles Darwin, and society is split between the Bloods (aristocracy) and the Wits (intellectuals, engineers, etc.).
What I didn't like:
The lack of plot. Seriously. Completely disregard the blurb. I don't know what book it's about, but it ain't this one. The first 30% is mostly Claire awkwardly navigating her social circle while trying to figure out how to convince her parents to send her to university. After a reversal of fortunes, Claire is left alone in London to sell the house while her mother flees to their country estate with Claire's baby brother. A wrong turn sees Claire in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the remaining 70% is a series of barely cohesive events in which Claire's original goal is all but forgotten. The pacing isn't great, falling into an episodic structure, and I found myself several times putting the Kindle down and walking away wondering (but not really caring) what the point of it all could possibly be.
Claire for the last 2/3 of the novel. After that wrong turn, Claire undergoes a personality change. Not gradual character growth, but a sudden and off-putting personality transplant. She goes from adorkable upper class rebel to middle-aged straight-laced governess in the blink of an eye. I want the old Claire back.
Hypocrisy. In Claire's little world, stealing to eat is bad, but teaching street urchins to concoct tear gas and become card sharks for fun and profit is A-OK. -__-
This book had a whole lot going for it, but in the end it was just so much wasted potential. I am undecided as to whether I'll seek out the sequels. The box set is pretty cheap, and there's a chance all that potential could be realized, but this is so close to going on the "meh" shelf that I don't know if I can be bothered.