Review: Lady of Devices

Book One of the Magnificent Devices series. 

London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. 

At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It’s not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices. 

When she meets Andrew Malvern, a member of the Royal Society of Engineers, she realizes her talents may encompass more than the invention of explosive devices. They may help her realize her dreams and his . . . but sometimes the closest friendships can trigger the greatest betrayals . . . 

Lady of Devices: A steampunk adventure novel (Magnificent Devices Book 1)

This book is very much a start for a series. I'm not saying this because it has an incomplete plot or a nasty nasty cliffhanger (which we hates, my precious, nasty cliffhangers), because it doesn't, but because the book is mostly set up and character background. 
It is a thoroughly enjoyable read with good writing and characters. I was very much afraid that it would turn into a love story between a kind of obnoxious character and the strong lead who should know better, but that didn't happen and I was relieved. 
Now this book is somewhat empowering, but it is empowering in women standing up to Victorian level sexism, which, yeah, makes sense for a steampunk world, but this book doesn't say anything particular new about that issue. I more appreciated how the main character stuck to her scruples in the face of difficulties (being determined not to steal or have poor manners) than the fact that she stood up against people trying to put her in her place because of her gender. 
It was a fun read with tight writing and good humor. It did feel like a lot of set up, but there are already 9 books in this series (it appears) so a reader should go into it expecting a long commitment ... and I do think these are characters I could spend a good deal of time with.