Nyssa Glass is a reformed cat burglar turned electrician’s apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself forced into one last job. No one has entered Professor Dalhart’s secluded mansion in almost a decade, at least not and returned to tell the tale. If Nyssa wants to ensure her freedom, she’ll brave the booby-trapped halls and mechanized maids. Nyssa has skills, but this house has more than its share of secrets. As she steps into the cobwebbed halls lined with dusty mirrors, she has to wonder. Is the House of Mirrors really abandoned?
Goodreads Link: Nyssa Glass & the House of Mirrors
Author: H. L. Burke
Genre: YA Steampunk/Gaslamp Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 stars
Steampunk is a hot genre but it’s a little hard to define. Is it a sub-genre of sci-fi, fantasy, or its own thing? It gets trickier because a lot of books seem to just slap “steampunk” in the description and maybe paste a few gears onto the cover. There might be an airship or robot somewhere in the story, but otherwise, you could be reading any generic adventure novel. I’m pleased to say that this is not one of those books.
It starts with the eponymous character, Nyssa, who is already familiar with technology from her time as a cat burglar and an electrician’s apprentice. She’s not just wearing goggles as a fashion statement, they’re a tool that she uses with the rest of her kit. Nyssa is one kind of heroine I love, spunky and practical. She’s running from a dark past but she won’t give up.
Now add the mysterious setting: a spooky mansion full of dangerous technology. The story takes a few liberties by making much of the “steampunk” tech analogous to more modern technology with computers and cars, but this is similar to the more fantastical end of the steampunk spectrum and it’s not done outrageously. It helps that Nyssa is able to explore and understand some of what’s going on rather than just being baffled. She’s quick on her feet to get around the various traps and figure out the real secret at the heart of the mansion.
It’s a quick, entertaining read and I basically finished it in one sitting. I wanted more. Luckily, the ending sets up a bigger series, and the later books expand the world with more characters and fun settings. I enjoyed all of them from start to the satisfying conclusion. It’s a little sad that the series is complete, but it did reach a logical end.
I recommend this book and the rest of the series to fans of Tamora Pierce, Andre Norton, and Jules Verne.