Title: My Imaginary Mary
Series: Mary #2
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Retelling
Published: August 2nd, 2022 (HarperTeen)
Synopsis: It’s aliiiiiiiive! The bestselling authors of My Lady Jane are back with the electric, poetic, and (almost) historical tale of the one and only Mary Shelley.
Mary may have inherited the brilliant mind of her late mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, but she lives a drab life above her father’s bookstore, waiting for an extraordinary idea that’ll inspire a work worthy of her parentage – and impress her rakishly handsome (and super-secret) beau, Percy Shelley.
Ada Lovelace knows a thing or two about superstar parents, what with her dad being Lord Byron, the most famous poet on Earth. But her passions lie far beyond the arts – in mechanical engineering, to be exact. Alas, no matter how precise Ada’s calculations, there’s always a man willing to claim her ingenious ideas as his own.
Pan, a.k.a. Practical Automaton Number One, is Ada’s greatest idea yet: a machine that will change the world, if only she can figure out how to make him truly autonomous…or how to make him work at all.
When fate connects our two masterminds, Mary and Ada learn that they are fae – magical people with the ability to make whatever they imagine become real. But when their dream team results in a living, breathing, thinking PAN, Mary and Ada find themselves hunted by a mad scientist who won’t stop until he finds out how they made a real boy out of spare parts.
With comic genius and a truly electrifying sense of adventure, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows continue their campaign to turn history on its head in this YA fantasy that’s perfect for fans of The Princess Bride and A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.
My Imaginary Mary brings us the authors’ unique take on the life of Mary Shelley. The daughter of the brilliant Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary, a writer herself, is just waiting for the right story so that she can live up to her mother’s work, not to mention, impress the handsome poet, Percy Shelley. Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron, is a mechanical genius, but no matter how amazing her work, there seem to be men who will take over and claim it as their own. When Mary and Ada meet, they learn that they are fae, and possess the magical ability to create anything with the power of imagination. Excited to try their new abilities, the duo set out to make an machine that can function autonomously, improving upon Ada’s PAN, or Practical Automaton Number One. But things go awry, and instead of an independently thinking machine, the girls now have a living, breathing and entirely alive PAN on their hands – and an unscrupulous scientist who will stop at nothing to figure out their secret. They must now work together to keep PAN safe as they figure out the magical world they’ve been introduced to and their fae abilities.
I’ve been a huge fan of this series ever since My Lady Jane, and while historical retellings that stray too far usually annoy me to no end, it has never been a problem with these books, because along with twisting history until it’s practically unrecognizable, the authors also make it absolutely hilarious. It’s also nice that the characters have a much happier ending than their historical counterparts at the end of their adventures. There was no shortage of laugh out loud moments and it was a completely insane and thoroughly enjoyable ride. The modern references, along with the writing style, where the authors actively chime in to provide background information, witty comments and more, has always been one of my favorite parts about these books, and I thought that was particularly well done in this book.
This book is told from three perspectives: Ada, Mary and later on PAN. In the initial chapters, I found it harder to tell Mary and Ada’s voices apart, but once I understood the world and plot better, it became much easier to do so. Mary and Ada never met in real life, but the question of what if they had met and worked together forms the basis of this reimagining – with some magic thrown in. The character development aspect was excellent for both of them, and their friendship helped both of them grow and gain confidence in themselves. PAN was simply adorable in how he wanted to learn about anything and everything and I wished he had more chapters.
On the downside, I felt that it was a little longer than it needed to be. The story didn’t drag at any point, but there were some parts that just felt superfluous, even if they were very funny. Also, the whole fae element wasn’t described in as much depth as I would have liked, leaving the magic system rather vague, and the world surrounding it was barely explored either, apart from a mention of fae godmothers and godfathers.
My Imaginary Mary was a delightful addition to the series and such a fun read – an innovative retelling of Frankenstein. While My Lady Jane will always be my absolute favorite – it’s an extremely hard one to live up to – this certainly ranks not far behind. I can’t wait to see who the next book, My Salty Mary, is going to be about. I would highly recommend this book to readers of all ages!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
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