Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who wore lovely dresses and grew up in the lap of luxury, never wanting for anything or having to raise a hand to work… Wait, sorry, wrong story. Once upon a time there was a girl named Britt. She liked pretty dresses and ribbons, but it was more practical for her to cut her hair short and to wear boys’ breeches so she could help her father work in the smithy. Then one day soldiers came, and they asked her father where the princess was, and they killed him. Britt was forced to run away in the old clockwork armour that her father, the former Captain of the Guardian Watch, had hidden away since she was a child. Britt is Princess Brittania Angelica Gloriana, the long-lost heir to the throne of Erydon, stolen by Captain Warden to save her during the war that killed her family. Now she must find a way to take back her kingdom.
I really liked this book. Britt is very torn between being a ‘normal’ girl and her love of machinery. She does like pretty things, but she likes to work in the smithy and take apart her clockwork toys as well. The other children in the village don’t understand her because she looks different and acts different (like a boy they say, wearing pants and working in the smithy), and the noble family who tries to help her don’t understand her because she wasn’t raised in a castle with fine things and money. Britt really wants to fit in, but she cannot deny her passion for machinery and smithwork and her need to be useful and not just decorative, the way a princess is supposed to be. Rob St. Martin creates an interesting world and a strong heroine. One issue I do have is with the ending–Britt is ceremonially crowned the princess of the kingdom, but practically speaking the Empire still controls the land. It feels incomplete–I hope that one day Rob will write the sequel and continue the story. Britt is not a girl who will sit back in safety and allow others (men) to win her kingdom back for her, and I’d like to follow her journey.