Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th-century French girls can only dream of: money, designer dresses, suitors, and a secure future. Except she can’t quite commit to a life of dull luxury and she suspects she may be falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithy in the family’s steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love—only the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure, and restitution await her if she can survive the voyage.
Based on the true story of The Daughters of the King, Louis the XIV’s social program to settle the wilds of Canada with women of noble birth, Marguerite’s steampunk adventure follows in the footsteps of nearly one thousand brave women and girls who were rewarded handsomely for trekking across the pirate infested Atlantic to a strange land.
The cover threw me off at first; I was expecting something darker, more gothic, more Tim Burton-esque. Instead it’s a light, almost over the top story, complete with fully functioning AI robots in a Colonial-era, 17th century setting. Canada is still considered a French colony and settlers eke out a living on the frontier side by side with almost Star Wars-level droids as aerships whoosh across the skies.
Lady Marguerite can be summed up in one word: brat. An obvious choice by the author, and a risky one in this watered down era of plucky heroines, and it’s both refreshing and off-putting. Marguerite longs for her independence, but of course has no idea how to be so and considers nothing beyond herself. She knows what she doesn’t want, but not what she does. She’s an admitted rebel without a clue. Her attraction to Claude is obvious; he’s the only male she knows who treats her as an equal, so naturally she’s thinks he’s the one for her. Claude’s role is obvious and cliched, which makes him wasted- as he’s such a engineering genius that he can build the most state of the art robots and devices, why hasn’t her father made better use of him than to keep him toiling in obscurity? Because then he couldn’t be reduced to a plot device, that’s why.
You can almost count this one off by the numbers. Nothing really remarkable going on here. Given her speshul snoflake status, Marguerite can’t help but draw the attention of the most eligible bachelors available- including future love interest Jacques Laviolette, polite society outcast and aership captain with a rep as a bad boy whom fate- and Marguerite’s brattiness- will ultimately draw her towards. Why he’d even care so much for her is hard to fathom, but it’s that kind of story. Even her faithful robot servant, Outil, is more personable- and likeable- than Marguerite. She also has a much larger impact on the story; without Outil, Marguerite would be literally lost.
The worldbuilding is both detailed and lacking. There’s plenty when it affects the story and everything else seems to happen in a vacuum. There’s no rhyme, reason or logic to world- the steampunk technology is simply plopped into a period of history and we’re rolling. There’s some nice touches which make for a more interesting read than it normally would be- some genuinely funny moments and brief insights that are unfortunately abandoned in lieu of more fluff. The afterword sheds light on the research and inspiration the author drew upon, which is interesting, moreso than the overall story was.