Summary (goodreads.com): Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.
But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest (who has a secret past of his own), speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.
Review: I had stumbled upon this novel a few months ago, searching on amazon for new reading material. I have recently developed a liking for Steampunk novels, so this was intriguing. When I got this book as a Christmas present from my brother, I started reading right away and it took me only a day or two to finish.
Rosen has a light and easy-to-read style. The dialogues do not feel staged but rather lively and realistic. I really liked the characters, Violet, who is strong-willed and talented, but also “just a girl”, and her brother who is an artist and lives his life as he pleases, yet has a strong sense of loyalty. The other characters are likable as well and the reader gets to know bits and pieces of their story along the way, which gives them a bit more depth.
The story itself is one we all have read a couple of times. Heroine enters and gets into trouble, stumbles upon a dire secret and has to rescue everyone in the end – and gets the man, too. But instead of giving the story an overly serious tone, Rosen keeps it on the funny site, balancing the “we are doomed” parts with some comedy and romantic elements. I also liked the feminist touch, giving the main character this incredible talent for engineering and fierce passion for her mission to open the gates of Illyria for women.
It was not the very best book I have ever read, but it is worth the money and I will revisit this story a few more times whenever I feel like I want some interesting entertainment with all the elements of a good story: believable characters, comedy, romance and some action. I give it a 3 out of 5.