★ ★ ★ 3/5 Stars
by A.E. Hellar
Last year, I received a Kindle for my birthday from my boyfriend. Once I got Amazon Prime, I decided to check out the lending library. I was really attracted to this book for two reasons: 1) the title and 2) the cover. The title “Lady Astronomer” made me curious to learn about the possible character and the plot. The cover is classic steampunk imagery; a young woman wearing a mono-scope, reading astronomy documents in a room filled with books and experimental equipment.
Overall, this story was an easy read and it’s great for younger readers and those looking for something not deep or complicated. The plot is simple, though it takes a while to get off the ground. The first part of the story is about the siblings Freddie, Al, and Lucretia and their life together, with their animals and steampunk creations, in Bath. Freddie convinces a King to build him the largest telescope in the world, which makes the characters move to Slough to be near the King. Once there, a new set of challenges and characters await, which include a romance for both Lucretia and Freddie. When plans for the telescope fall behind schedule, the King requests that Lucretia remains at the castle with him. Being a naïve girl, Lucretia falls into the trap of Lady K and Mr. E and ends up arrested for treason.
Mainly, the story centers on Lucretia, The Lady Astronomer. It took me a few minutes after finishing the story, to realize that the character had evolved. In the beginning, Lucretia feels she is surrounded by silly women. These are honest women but they are not of status or intelligence. While Lucretia isn’t a social climber, she doesn’t appreciate the value of their guilelessness. She goes off to the castle and is taken in by the false demonstrations of friendship from Lady K and Mr. E, which leads to her downfall and the death of her beloved owl Orion. After she is cleared by the efforts of Princess 12 (a.k.a Kitty), she is able to see and appreciate the rural people from Slough and Bath. On her return home, she accepts the friendship of Mrs. P, a woman whom she originally mocked for her simple nature. Lucretia’s growth wasn’t immediately noticeable because it isn’t strung together well. I would have expected the characters to have an internal struggle, resulting in an epiphany. There isn’t a struggle or an epiphany; and it’s this above all else that takes makes me dislike this story.
I found the story to be too childish and underdeveloped to be categorized as YA or for an audience of YA readers. I have become accustomed to YA novels that deal with hard subjects using a mature dialogue. The overabundance of Steampunk animal characters detracted from my ability to take the story seriously. I felt that the King’s actions were a bit over the top. His actions made me read his character as an exaggeration of an adult character written for a young child. The scenes where Lucretia was locked in the dungeon lacked grit and emotion. This for me was a huge problem, since this was the climax of the story and what everything was building to. This story didn’t read that way, making the scenes lack heart and tension.
There wasn’t one steampunk element that I liked more than another. The main character, Lucretia, has a mono-scope. While not an influential part of the story, it is important. It is the mono-scope that helps the Princess 12 (a.k.a Kitty) prove that Lucretia was falsely accused of treason by Lady K and Mr. E. The mono-scope is also an important part of Lucretia’s identity, in that it provides a shield from the world and serves as an ocular device. What I can say are the most creative steam punk elements are the clockwork animals. The younger brother Al creates the animal orchestra and Orion 2. Also, there is Mr. Trotters, the steam pig that befriends the family in Slough, as well as a clockwork crocodile that resides in the moat outside the castle. For the most part, these animals don’t have a direct effect on the plot but only serve as entertainment.