In some respects, this latest installment of The Steampunk Chronicles feels the most like a romance novel. Not because the tone of the books has changed any, or because this one is suddenly more explicit than the rest. It seems that way rather because the title character (Mila) is very clear on what she wants (Jack) and while the “Mila becoming human” storyline is arguably the point of this whole novel (with the Finley/Griffon parts being the secondary novel plot, even as they are part of the main series arc) it seems that the way we are shown her becoming human is through Jack’s reluctance to acknowledge it.
Perhaps that’s an unfair judgment, but I don’t really feel that it is. Nor do I feel that it’s necessarily a bad thing. There is no denying that all of these books have had a romantic undertone. And as in romance novels, generally once you have met both the heroine and the hero, you know who will be pairing up with whom. This has been the case since book 1. I think the main difference here is that the conflict keeping Jack and Mila apart for most of the novel is that he refuses to see her as a possible romantic interest for himself. It’s not someone being abducted (Girl With The Iron Touch) or an internal conflict (Girl With The Steel Corset) or the threat of death if the couple doesn’t do what the antagonist wants (Girl With The Clockwork Collar). If anything, this book is more up front about being a romance-focused novel than the rest, though it is still very YA-oriented and hints at things instead of explicitly showing them.
As to the series plot (otherwise known as the Finley/Griffin plot): several things need to be said here. First, it is both nice and super annoying to know who the series villain is and to have the heroes keep confronting him. You know what (and who) to expect, which is both nice and not at the same time. One can only hope that this will eventually end, and the good guys will have finally dealt with the bad guy permanently. Second, it is nice to see minor characters from earlier in the storylines show back up. I do enjoy a good recurring minor character. Third, the best part about the recurring villain thing in this series is that the circumstances are never the same twice. The players may repeat, but the scene does not. That’s very refreshing.
Also, I have to say that I am thrilled with the way that the series arc doesn’t overshadow the novel’s arc, and they can intertwine without either being sacrificed. These two plots blend very nicely in a way that many series novels I’ve read recently don’t, and it’s a point is Ms. Cross’s favor that she’s able to do that successfully. I look forward to seeing what else this series might have in store for us, because I’ve been enjoying it so much. It seems the series is currently planned for 5 novels, which means one more. I’m glad that there’s at least that planned, because I do so enjoy this world.