The Friday Society Hardcover – 6 Dec 2012
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|Hardcover, 6 Dec 2012||
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What brings them together, besides random chance, is a villain — an ominous, powerful foe known as the Fog — who’s roaming the streets at night murdering prominent gentlemen and innocent flower girls, breaking into the Tower of London to steal the Crown Jewels, and eventually staging a daring and destructive attack on the entire city.
The police are helpless, and the greatest men in the nation are clueless, so what hope can we expect from a girl trained in the construction of steampunk weaponry, another girl who knows more about sleight-of-hand, trickery, acrobatics, and thievery than anyone else in the city, and another girl who is one of the most skilled martial artists in the nation? And if they know that their actions could have serious repercussions, what sort of disguises will they devise to protect themselves? Will they, perhaps, become superheroes? (Hint: Yes, they will.)
I’m not normally all that big on steampunk — I love it in theory, but it often doesn’t live up to my expectations. But I loved the stuffings out of this book — partly because it wasn’t entirely a steampunk story. You can’t expect a lot of faithfully rendered Victorian/Edwardian attitude — it’s really very anachronistic, as all three of our main characters generally talk and act like modern-day women. Honestly, I think that’s fine — this was designed as a young adult novel, specifically to appeal to girls, so I don’t see any problem with having our characters think like more modern women.
Which brings us to our characters themselves — Cora, Nellie, and Michiko are all total winners as characters. Cora brings the frustrated snark along with the brainy science, Nellie is part girly-girl, part swashbuckler, all enthusiasm, and Michiko is controlled, quiet, and generally confused by almost everything Cora and Nellie do. And they all work together really well. They all get individual moments to shine, and they all get moments where they shine as a team. They even get moments where they fail to shine, just to show that they're not perfect, unstoppable heroes.
I am fairly impressed that Kress specifically planned to have Nellie be the character most fond of stereotypically girly pursuits, primarily for the sake of realism — plenty of girls like dresses and shoes and sparkles while still being awesome, and liking "girl stuff" certainly doesn't prevent someone from being awesome. So I love the fact that this aspect of her character was embraced.
The action’s great, the mystery is fun, the plot twists are entertaining. I suppose I should’ve figured out what kind of disguises they were going to come up with, but I didn’t, so that added to the fun, too.
If I’ve got a criticism, I’d say I wish Michiko had known a bit more English. There were too many scenes that featured Cora and Nellie talking to each other while Michiko stood by silently. But hopefully, that will be less of a problem in the sequels (and I hope there are sequels on the way).
The story begins by introducing the three girls and their mentors before it introduces the mystery. Each girl has part of the story and it isn't until they all meet that they get a better picture of what is going on.
I liked that each girl has a unique personality and a unique relationship with their mentors. I likes the steampunk gadgets that Cora and the villains of the story invent. I liked the friendship that grew between the girls as they teamed up, each with their own particular skill set, to solve murders and find out who was blackmailing London.
There were lots of interesting situations and the villains were way over-the-top from the scientist who was collecting body parts and had a special interest in eyes to the grave robbers who supplied him with bodies.
This was a fun adventure.
Somebody "borrowed" this book from me when I was halfway through. I blame it on the superb cover that screams steam punk grrl power and is therefore irresistible to certain light-fingered types.
However, I eventually retrieved my copy and was rollicked through to the end. I'm the more impressed by the author's ability to create compelling and amusing characters since I found the plot relatively pedestrian, reminiscent of all those overwrought and over-the-top super hero movies which are also saved by compelling and amusing characters. Yes, Iron Man, I'm looking at you. Love the red and gold detailing, by the way.
I like all three protagonists: Cora for her brainy prickliness and determination; Nellie for her sparkly physicality and canniness; Michiko, well, for everything. Among the supporting cast, I've developed a fondness for the mysterious Magician; the cunning parrot Scherazade; Officer Murphy; and Hayao, the boy with a talent for running (up walls and over rooftops as well as on the ground.) I hate Michiko's employer, Callum, but that's okay, because I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to. Jury's still out on Cora's boss, Lord White. I don't quite trust him, but again, that's okay. A little uncertainty about an (ongoing?) character isn't a bad thing.
Scenes that particularly worked for me were those between Michiko and Hayao, Nellie and the Magician, and Cora and her old playmate, now a flower girl. I also had a squeamish fascination for the scene in the pub, when Cora stands up to Andrew and his nasty coterie of Eton chums. In all these scenes, I sensed the coming together of theme, of the proper relationships between master and assistant, teacher and student, richer and poorer, stronger and weaker, friend and friend, even lover and lover. The proper bond, I read here, is one of mutual respect, and the result? Well, beating the bad guys, for one thing.
Another tribute to the author's ability? I didn't put the book down after the first few pages, when it became painfully clear that anachronistic slang was to be one order of the day. This is a pet peeve of mine, and I think the book would have been gained much integrity by avoiding it. However, obviously, other attractions got me over the peeve - a very rare occurrence!
Other nits: I could have done without the Andrew-Cora subplot, though its denouement is interesting. Maybe if this subplot had lost the insta-lust and make-out sessions, which struck me as out of character for Cora and the historical period, Andrew's "progressive" egotism notwithstanding. The principal villain had some intriguing parallels to our heroines but failed to totally convince me - ditto the villainous secret society. It might have been the monologuing and the (for me) over-the-top nature of the final threat. The climax was fun, with some very nice details, but felt slightly rushed. Ditto an earlier action sequence at the Tower of London.
Overall, however, a strong start to what could be a fine series. Certainly, the close of the novel opens up all sorts of possibilities for the further adventures of Cora, Nellie and Michiko, aka the Friday Society.
Oh, and you know what would be cool? A graphic novel version of the story! Just saying....