Monday, January 14, 2013

Kress, Adrienne: The Friday Society

December 6, 2012
YA Steampunk/Historical Fiction, 440 pages
Acquired and read: From local library cooperative; it took me a few weeks to read it because I was being unusually skeptic and dithering over whether or not I should actually read it (see, I got around to it, okay?!)

"And then there was an explosion."

That's actually the first line, but it could also be described as my brain realizing that steampunk + girl power + superheroes + Victorian London = something so awesome that it needs its own genre in order to properly exist. I don't have to recap for you the warmth I felt in my heart upon seeing the cover - and even a Japanese girl is involved! Such talent, such verve! - the sleepless nights waiting for a copy to magically appear in the mail, and finally, that hallowed moment when it was set in my hands at the local library.

(I stood there for a moment, looking at the cover - and yes, there might have been a little stroking involved. As stated before, the librarians are too understanding of me at this point.)

In any case, this first explosion (in the book, not my brain) is not the last. Adrienne Kress leads her readers on a madcap exploration of Victorian London, through its seamiest allies and most elegant ballrooms. And in the end, you ask? Was this book the answer to the search for the Holy Grail, that finest of finest of all books - the ultimate girl hero team?

Well, in answer to the Holy Grail thing, poor Sir Galahad is probably still looking. And on the ultimate girl hero team...well, let's just say I'm still right out there with him, but I have to admit it: The Friday Society does carry out one promise, and that is pure, unadulterated fun.

So we have Cora, ward and lab assistant to a rather absent-minded lord; Nellie, the Irish (of course) beauty who works with a magician (and has a parrot as a sidekick...wouldn't that make Batman jealous?); and Michiko, a Japanese import who mainly serves as an advertisement for her bumbling employer's fighting school, but has a spark of her own that won't be put out.

By this point, you're probably wondering exactly why this didn't hit the spot for me. After all, Kaye is all about Japan, right? Girl power, that's just what the doctor ordered. And that parrot...well, come on, who can resist a parrot? That's like, right up there with bunnies and and face paint and glitter glue and having Dora the Explorer on your backpack.

Well, there is such a thing as too much fun. Though Kress obviously has wit and whimsy coming out of her ears, there was more than one time I felt like the writing was a bit over-the-top. Recurrent jokes and old cliches do wear out - and speaking of cliches, have you heard the one involving the strong, independent girl falling for an obviously rotten apple and COMPLETELY taking leave of her senses because his eyes are so blue and he can banter until the cows come home, and oh my GOD take a look at those biceps.

Yeah, well...though it didn't completely ruin my enjoyment of the book, that part definitely got my goat. After all, there is that tagline: "Gowns, guys, guns - and the girls who use them all." News flash: Making doe eyes at a guy who's obviously playing you doesn't really help your reputation as a strong, liberated female.

But, don't lose heart. There are a generous amount of fight scenes, showdowns, near-concussions and contussions, a brief side romance that doesn't involve blue eyes and bantering (well, much), and NO LOVE TRIANGLE.

Ha. It's a miracle.

And, I must admit, I did love Michiko. After all, samurai lessons being passed down to a street rat? Rooftop parkour? Botched-up English translations and cultural barriers smashed through like paper? Gotta respect those Japanese girls.

So, my final conclusion? If I had to compare my reading of The Friday Society to any other title, I'd have to choose The Avengers - it's enjoyable enough once you get into it, but it's...not all that, or maybe just not what I was expecting (hold the Thor and just give us more antics from Loki! That's who everyone actually comes to see, people).

...And now I'm picturing Hawkeye in a skirt and high-laced boots. Great.

Warnings: Language - really, would a girl raised in polite society, especially overseas, dare to use such words in public? I think not. There's also quite a bit of innuendo, a rotten apple (see above) who has rather grabby hands and is just an all-around jerk, and a character death that may or may not hit you right in the solar plexus.


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