Author: Adrienne Kress
Genre: YA, Alternative History, Steampunk
Publication Date: December 6, 2012 (Dial/Penguin – North America)
Source: Traded-for ARC
Summary: Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician’s assistant. The three young women’s lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.
It’s up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.
Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures
☆: 3/5 stars – a really fun debut that girls of any age will definitely enjoy!
Review: This one was a fun read, guys. If you’re looking for a good, bubblegum book, this is definitely your read. For some reason, it had me harkening back to the 90s “girl power” thing, I don’t know why, but maybe it was our empowered heroines. While there were a few things that bugged me, overall I did enjoy “The Friday Society” and recommend it to those looking for a fun fantasy novel to while away an afternoon with.
Let’s start with the characters – I loved all three of our heroines, though I will admit I did have a bit of an issue with the way Michiko was constructed (more on that later). These girls are fun, fun, fun, and very feisty, which made this a joy to read. They won’t let anyone tell them what they can and can’t do, and I always love it when we have an alternative history with heroines like these. I love how it shows how amazing girls can be, if just given the chance (and even if we’re not, when we take that power into our own hands) – and there’s not enough of this in YA, not by a long shot. So Kress, I definitely must give you props for that. I think in the end Nellie was my favorite of the three, if just for the parrot sidekick (and her fabulous outfits, oh my), but this rollercoaster of a book really gives you a lot of bang for your buck in so many ways, the characters just being one of them.
That being said, there is the issue of Michiko’s character – not only was she unbelievable (even in an alternate history tale), but the way she was constructed was flip-floppy. First she can’t understand English, then suddenly in a tough fight, she gets it? That didn’t quite wash with me. I also had a problem with the fact that Michiko was pretty much constructed like a foreigner’s wet dream – first a kind-of maiko (apprentice geisha), then suddenly taken on as a samurai student? Nope. It doesn’t work that way. Girls didn’t become samurai – they might have become fighting women for the noble class (see my review for Cole Gibsen’s “Katana” for more on that), but since it was pretty obvious that Michiko was definitely not in the noble class, it just didn’t work. Even in an alternate timeline comparing to where the Meiji era would have been ending in our timeline and the Taisho era just starting up, the idea that Japan was more or less still stuck in the area between post-Edo and pre-Meiji was kind of mindboggling. I couldn’t connect the dots because of how sloppy it was, and it feels like though there was a lot of thought put into her character (which is always appreciated), I could have used a bit more real-life research on the author’s part in order to play more with what history has given in us in this timeline when creating a new timeline.
There is also the issue with anachronistic speech within all of the girls’ POVs. I don’t mind one or two, but this was more or less a constant thing. And while I can see why Kress did what she did in terms of these anachronistic words and terms, it just didn’t work well with the book as a whole – and probably should have been edited out.
The world, too, needed a bit more work – though Kress cleverly avoided incomplete worldbuilding as a whole by shrinking things down to what happened at the gala concerning the murder. However, I would have liked a bit more on this alternative London – yeah, we know steam is all the rage, and giving us an idea about what’s going on in Cora’s lab was good, too, but I feel like this could have been fleshed out a lot more.
However, all in all (aside from my intensely nitpickiness)? This book was a lot of fun, and if there’s a next book, I’ll most likely be reading it. “The Friday Society” is out now from Dial/Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out!