By Adrienne Kress
Available now from Dial (Penguin)
When I picked up THE FRIDAY SOCIETY, I wasn't expecting a ton. Steampunk is one of those subgenres that I kind of enjoy but often find overrated. I was pretty into the first chapter though, wherein Cora discovers a rich guy got himself hired for her job and deals with it through explosions. Then the book kept getting better.
Cora, Michiko, and Nellie are all assistants. It's about the best job a girl can aspire to in Edwardian London. Working in a lab got Cora off the streets. Nellie took her burlesque skills to a higher-profile job as a magician's assistant. And Michiko came to Japan to teach samurai skills, but found herself being exploited as a fight assistant because she can't speak much English. But the three girls band together after a ball, when they all stumble upon a head without a body.
Basically, THE FRIDAY SOCIETY takes Joss Whedon-esque dialogue, proto-feminism, and superheroes, mixes those things in a blender, then sprinkles them over a murder mystery involving grave robbing, fog, and the destruction of a beloved landmark. If there's one fault in the novel, it's that the explosions of the first chapter take a long time to show up again.
All three girls have their own skills, and they complement each other well. I liked that there wasn't much romance in THE FRIDAY SOCIETY. There are make-outs and hints of attractions to be played out in later books, but Cora, Michiko, and Nellie aren't girls who need a man. They're clever and determined enough to thrive in a society that deems them second-class citizens. (Probably lower in Michiko's case.)
I honestly hope that Adrienne Kress will write a sequel (or two) to THE FRIDAY SOCIETY. It's great fun and these are characters I'd love to hang out with again. Plus, she uses the steampunk setting well. (By which I mean: mad science!) THE FRIDAY SOCIETY was not only better than I expected - it would've been better than I expected if I had high hopes.