I was drawn to this book from the moment I saw the cover. The incredible cover art alone would have probably been enough of an enticement for me to read The Perilous Journey of The Not-So-Innocuous Girl, but the clever title is what really had me hooked.
After reading the blurb I was further intrigued, and armed with only this information and the fact that the book was published by speculative fiction specialists, Month9Books, I set in to what I assumed to be an historical fantasy about a perilous journey from France to the New World.
In essence, this is the case, but certainly not in the way I had pictured it. It was with both surprise and delight that I opened the story on page one to find myself immersed in a 17th-century steampunk world, full of wondrous gadgets, automatons and airships.
Out titular ‘not-so-innocuous girl’ is Marguerite Vadnay, the only daughter of one of the wealthiest landowners in 17th-century France. And like all young noble-women of her time, it is Marguerite’s sole duty to find a suitable husband once she comes of age. But Marguerite wants adventure and excitement – something that none of her prospective suitors can offer her.
The ‘perilous journey’ begins when Marguerite decides to enlist for the ‘Daughters of the King’ program – an actual 17th-century initiative that sent willing young women to New France (Quebec), where they would be able to choose their own husbands or take on a profession. Having decided she is in love with Claude, the smithy on her father’s estate, who has recently emigrated to New France himself, Marguerite decides to follow him – but of course, nothing goes as planned.
I have to admit I was slightly apprehensive before beginning this book. So often I come across outstanding covers that are merely a ruse, disguising the sub-par quality of the story within. Fortunately this was not one of those cases. The writing is solid and the world-building – that clever combination of historical detail and Ms. Statham’s imagination – is excellent.
There’s no doubt that Marguerite is, at times, a hard to like heroine; but we are given that information in the title so it’s not surprising. At times she invoked empathy, a times frustration, at times fear, at times hope – she certainly kept me on my toes more than any other main character I’ve read about recently!
What I really enjoyed was seeing the (metaphorical) journey that Marguerite undertook throughout the story, and how her experiences both humbled her and made her stronger by its conclusion.
For me, The Perilous Journey of The Not-So-Innocuous Girl had somewhat of a Doctor Who feel about it, and perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much. This novel won’t be for everyone – hardcore historical fiction fans might find the speculative world a little hard to reconcile – but if you love a good adventure story you’ll want to check this out.
A review copy was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review
Reviewed by Ash Bye