Publication Date: May 1, 2011
Finley Jayne knows she's not 'normal'. Normal girls don't lose time, or have something inside them that makes them capable of remarkably violent things. Her behavior has already cost her one job, so when she's offered the lofty position of companion to Phoebe, a debutante recently engaged to Lord Vincent, she accepts, despite having no experience. Lord Vincent is a man of science with his automatons and inventions, but Finley is suspicious of his motives where Phoebe is concerned. She will do anything to protect her new friend, but what she discovers is even more monstrous than anything she could have imagined...
An ebook exclusive prequel to The Steampunk Chronicles.
I think this is one of those rare instances where I like the short story/novella format from an author much more than the full length novel. Many of the failings found in Cross' full length novels are absent in The Strange Case of Finley Jayne. The story is much tighter: the descriptions of clothing and devices are still present, but do not override the plot. Nor does Cross over-employ the same redundant physical descriptions of characters as she does with Emily's "ropey" hair.
Surprisingly, I also think that Cross did a much better job of shaping her characters when constrained by the short story structure. Phoebe and Lady Morton were much more fully actualized to me than many of the characters found in The Girl in the Steel Corset. Additionally, she explores Finley's dual nature, and how Finley thinks of and feels about her internal conflict, in a much more interesting way than occurs in the full length novel. I also found the plot progression and world building to be a lot stronger in The Strange Case of Finley Jayne than in TGSC.
It would have been wonderful if TSCFJ had been included as the first chapters of TGSC rather than an independent prequel. There is a lot of helpful world-building information that is naturally included in this story that we are unaware of while reading The Girl in the Steel Corset until very late in the novel, and only then in a info-dump manner. Cross sublty uses foreshadowing with Finley's mother and her attitudes towards the aristocracy; and the former Duke of Greythorne's past experiments and discoveries were hinted at in a way that would have made TGSC a much better read.
I really enjoyed all of the almost-meetings between Finley and Griffin -- especially the scene in the chocolate shop! My only confusion is why Phoebe and Lady Morton don't show up in the full length books -- Phoebe is a sweet friend, and Lady Morton is a kick-butt cool character -- I'd like to see more of them. The Strange Case of Finley Jayne was a well-written, fun, interesting short story, and I really wish I would have read this first!
3.5 of 5 stars
This review also appears on Goodreads; I purchased my copy from Barnes & Noble for Nook.