My experience reading The Girl in the Steel Corset was in a word, puzzling. Yes, it was bad, in obvious, very comprehensible ways, but what I couldn't grasp was why? What would motivate an author to write a book this bad in this particular way, or a publishing company to just roll with it. And then, when the story had finished, I read the author acknowledgements and it all became clear.
"First of all, I need to thank Krista Stroever, editor extraordinaire. When I told Krista I wanted to write League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets teen X-Men, she replied, 'Steampunk. Cool.'"
Bingo. The Girl in the Steel Corset is a comic book in novel's clothing.
Or perhaps, a better explanation would be that The Girl in the Steel Corset desperately, violently wants to be a comic book, so instead we get an actual book loaded with characters, objects, and concepts with superficial appeal, but no real substance behind them.
But truthfully, even before the real superficial aspects began to show through, Steel Corset Girl and I had some issues. We got off on the wrong foot from page one, as the very first thing that happens to introduce us to our heroine, Miss Finley Jayne, is that her employer's drunken son attempts to sexually assault her. And a part of her - the dark, "evil" part spoiling for a fight - wants him to, so she can get her ass-kicking on.
Ugh. UGH. UGGGGGGGGH.
This is probably one of the worst possible ways Cross could have introduced me to this story. It's not just a cliche, not just lazy writing, not just using rape as a plot device, but to top it all off, it sets up this idea that frustrated me throughout the story: the world is out to get Finley Jayne.
She is persecuted for nearly the entire book, antagonized not only by the villain, but by her supposed allies as well, along with, you know, the world in general, not only for nothing, but often for just being a good person). In the first chapter alone she nearly gets raped, decides to run away from her home/job because of it, reflects on how she's been fired from multiple positions before (which the prequel e-novella seems to indicate is because she stands up for people), then promptly gets hit by a steampunk motorcycle. In the first chapter. Throughout the course of the book she's investigated for murder and nearly killed multiple times, at least two of which were by members of the GOOD GUYS' TEAM who were deeply, unjustly skeptical of her motivations. Oh yeah, and she gets involved in a ~socially unacceptable~ love triangle, which allows her to get her inferiority complex on, you know, when other people aren't doing that for her.
It's tedious and once again, lazy. It's a cheap way of drumming up sympathy for Finley, to forge a false emotional connection between her and the reader - after all, you're more likely to root for a heroine who's been fucked over by the system, right? But this has become necessary in Steel Corset because on her own, Finley Jayne is an incredibly boring heroine. As with most dual-personality characters, her "good" side is whiny and trembling and scared, her "bad" side a hot-headed, super-strong vixen, and neither is terribly interesting. The good side has all the personality of a wet mop, and while the bad side is more entertaining, her scenes are few and far between, and she's really just a stock bad-ass character, anyway. There's not a lot of depth or complexity to either of them.
I'd also like to rave about the truly stereotype-breaking portrayal of Finley's "bad" being the more socially - and sexually - confident, while the "good" was modest and demure. Gag.
At any rate, Finley is nothing more than your typical Jekyll and Hyde archetype: YA edition. This naturally means that her inner "monster" never does anything dark or evil enough to warrant legitimately be considered a "monster", but in order for her to score high enough on the Emo and Alienated Meter to have "motivation" for doing stupid things that the plot demands later on, everyone must call her that or treat her like one.
Really though, the entire cast is more archetype than character, which brings me back to the thesis we started out with: Steel Corset is a comic book. It seems as though these characters exist not to be people, exactly, but props, designed with "coolness" - in appearance, manner, and motivation - as the top priority...
Read more at You're Killing.Us