Thursday 25 May 2017

The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies, Glenn Song

She wanted to go back to her tower room and absorb herself in her stacks of algebra
Alicia Reynard, a country farm girl, has dreamed of flying like a bird as long as she can remember. For her, these dreams have become a quest to build a flying steam carriage. Lady Elena Singleton, a young noblewoman, is in love with mathematics and the new field of mechanical computation. When their country Maedrelleden goes to war with their northern neighbor, Vergenstat, the men are conscripted to fight for king and country. In their absence, an opportunity arises for these two very different women to gain a higher education in the capital of Aeterall. Will this chance be the opportunity to unlock their potential and ingenuity?

The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies is, as far as I can gather, a whole book chopped into thirds. Whilst it is the length of a novella it is not a novella in the sense that it does not contain a complete story arc and so, whilst I enjoyed the characters and the direction that this book was taking, I'm not quite sure why the author chose to publish his work thus, which is why I have left this book unrated.
She admired Elena's beauty but she could not emulate it. Alicia wore plain dresses. She worked with her hands and came home muddy and dirty and there was no place for makeup in her life

A Tale of Two Ladies is, you guessed it, the story of two ladies. Alicia Reynard, who gets the lion's share of the page time, is a country girl with an interest in machinery and flight. She is encouraged to read and learn in her spare time by her father. When a war breaks out and her father goes off to join the war effort, Alicia and her mother are left to tend to the family farm. But when the capital of Aeterall opens it's university's doors to young women, Alicia decides to apply.

"There's a new edition calculus book coming and I want that."
"Poetry you say? Girls love poetry." 

Elena Singleton is a young noblewoman whose older brother has just been conscripted to fight and whose mother is determined to marry her off to an eligible young man, either unaware or uncaring that Elena prefers women. Elena's love of mathematics and calculations is secretly supported by her grandmother, who encourages her to apply for the University of Aeterall despite her mother's wishes. 

Both young women are interesting main characters, but I thought it was a shame that Elena gets so little page time. When the two women meet, we only ever see Elena from Alicia's perspective and never the other way around, which I was a touch disappointed by. Their stories are laced with ideas of equality, tradition, feminism, and a good dose of humour, which I enjoyed. 

I was disappointed when it ended because it seemed like we were just getting to the crux of the story: Elena and Alicia going to study at the university. I would have loved for this to have been a full book. 

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book

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