Review: The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Why I chose this book: 
I am normally not one to judge a book by it's cover, but goodness, this book looked good. The sleek cover and synopsis made me jittery with excitement. I hadn't heard any buzz about this book and picked it up on a whim. This was also my first experience with the steampunk genre; a style of writing I wanted to read more of.

The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: August 14, 2012
Format: Hardback 
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Steampunk
Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound 

In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world. (Goodreads)
Three Things You Need to Know:

1. Gender roles: The female protagonist Vespa does not take any of this gender role crap that New London tries to dish out. While Vespa is expected to get married, bear children, and work at home, she defies all expectations and works at a museum dedicated to Unnatural creatures. As a curator her job is considered "man's work", and she receives a lot of criticism for it. On the other hand, while author Tiffany Trent tries to create a girl that is completely passionate about science, she dedicates more pages to Vespa chasing her love interest more than dabbling in the world of science. This type of character can be pulled off, but Trent fails at creating a feminist/scientific dream girl.

2. Point of View: There is an interchanging POV throughout the novel. When you read about Vespa the book is in first person. Yet when the story changes to Cyrus, it switches to third person POV. Unnecessarily confusing? Definitely. It is even more bothersome because Cyrus is not an important character until the last few chapters of the book.

3. Fascinating yet utterly confusing: Tiffany Trent creates the world of "New London" by mixing science, religion, and Victorian Era themes to give the reader a steampunk world of wonder....sort of. There are many elements of the environment that I loved. Scientists from our world are worshipped as saints at Saint Darwin's Church of Science and Technology. "Myth" is used as energy to power the Industrial Age city. These unique details offer up a world that many readers would have a hard time turning away. Despite this, Trent has large gaps that she expects the reader to fill, making parts of the book completely unbelievable.

Final Thoughts
While I read this book quickly (a sign of an interesting book), it did not rise to my expectations. The sleek cover and catchy synopsis gave me high hopes but I was quickly disappointed. I have a feeling that this series may be one that picks up steam (pun intended) as sequels are produced. If you are wanting to jump into the genre of steampunk, this may not be the book for you. Yet if you want a refreshing tale of magic and science, this is right up your alley.

I gave this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads. 

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