Author: Adrienne Kress
Release date: December 6th 2012
Hardcover, 440 pages
Buy: The Book Depository
An action-packed tale of gowns, guys, guns –and the heroines who use them allSet in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician's assistant. The three young women's lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.It's up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures.
First things first: The Friday Society is a turn-of-the-century almost-steampunk (I’ll get to the ‘almost’ part later) that is exciting, funny and has a large number of unique, interesting characters. The idea of three intelligent young girls teaming up to solve crimes may have been used and abused far too many times, but the Victorian setting meant a new context that could have provided the necessary freshness. Unfortunately, it made things much worse instead.
Cora, Nellie and Michiko don’t have much in common, except that they’re all intelligent and very competent. Cora is an assistant to Lord White, a politician and an inventor. She’s interested in science and spends most of her time keeping his Lordship away from the opium dens. Nellie is the gorgeous assistant of Great Raheem, an accomplished and well-respected magician. She is very girly, but also very athletically gifted. Michiko came from Japan to work with a British self-defense instructor, wanting to escape from the parents that wanted to marry her off and her samurai teacher who refused to present her with a katana. She doesn’t speak much English and she’s constantly yelled at and beaten by her employer.
What turned The Friday Society from a fun fluffy read to a complete disaster was Kress’ carelessness or nonchalance towards the language. I am baffled by her constant use of modern colloquialisms in this book. I was ready to disregard the far too modern worldview of her heroines, the (unbelievably) liberal and progressive society, but language use is where I draw the line. I don’t think that ‘smokin’ hot’ was used to describe an attractive individual over a hundred years ago, and somehow I doubt that the word ‘awesome’ was used in every other sentence either. Aside from the steam-powered gadgets, steampunk should attempt to recreate an era, and that is largely done through language. Authors should either know how to do this, or not write steampunk at all.
It is a shame that Adrienne Kress didn’t do a better job with era- appropriate language. I was almost ready to forgive some of it, but then a character would say something so painfully jarring, and it would make my blood boil.
I wasn’t entirely unhappy with the abovementioned steam-powered gadgets. Cora is an inventor after all, and she had a few (very entertaining) aces up her sleeve. There were dirigibles, steam cabs, night vision goggles and other interesting things, and while they weren’t exactly described in detail, they at least worked well with the plot.
In this case, my two-star rating doesn’t mean anything other than ‘I had no idea how to rate this book’. There were things I truly enjoyed, humor and characters most of all, but in the end, even that wasn’t enough. Gail Carriger may not be much of a plotter, but no one can object to her language use or her ability to re-create the atmosphere of the Victorian era. Adrienne Kress, on the other hand, should write books in which characters can like, say ‘like’ as many times as they want.