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The Friday Society
Adrienne Kress
Dial Books, 448 pages

The Friday Society
Adrienne Kress
Adrienne Kress is a writer and actress born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She majored in Drama at the age of 11 at the Claude Watson School for the Arts, and continued to follow this path through post-secondary school, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Toronto with an honours BA in theatre. She then moved to London England to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and stayed for three years, acting in a variety of productions. Upon her return to Canada, she joined the Tempest Theatre Group, a Shakespearean theatre company.

Adrienne Kress Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

The elevator pitch was probably Charlie's Angels in a Steampunk setting for teens!

In that context, the book works like gangbusters.

Cora, Michiko, and Nellie are all assistants, Cora to a lord who is an inventor in secret, and an MP in his public life, Nellie to a mysterious magician whose background is not clear, except he's non-English, and Michiko to a bigoted brute of a con man named Sir Callum Fielding-Shaw, who makes his living supposedly teaching self-defense. Michiko does what little teaching that takes place, while Sir Callum parties.

The story is not about the bosses, but about the girls. Working in a lab got Cora off the streets. Nellie had trained in the burlesque before being hired by the magician. And Michiko came to Japan to teach samurai skills, but ended up exploited by a con man because of her lack of English; her fighting is far superior to his.

The three girls meet accidentally one night when they all stumble upon a head without a body. Then they find out that someone is murdering flower girls. Are the murders related?

The girls retreat for a drunken after-mission debriefing, but don't team up until well past the half-way point in the book. Until then, each girl gets her innings as she goes about dealing with the positives and negatives of her life, coming across clues to the mysteries as they do. When they take action, they are wonderful: Nellie with her Houdiniesque escape techniques, Michiko's deadly fighting, and Cora's instinct for going-at'em, though in her case, instinct fights against her when Lord White apparently takes on a young, cute, posh assistant to whom Cora feels inexplicably attracted. And attraction seriously derail one's intent when it's high-powered.

One of the villains is fairly obvious from the getgo, and an adult reader might feel the pacing slow as the girls find their way first to the clues, and then to their team bonding. An adult reader might also feel that the world-building is somewhat slapdash. Outside of steam-powered carriages, floating ships, and goggles, there is as little evocation of the scientific method as there is of realistic nineteenth century English or Japanese detail. Nellie's accent is not even remotely Irish (it seems more like parody Southern), and the girls use words like "okay" and "glam."

But I don't think that the young American reader -- the intended audience -- will care about any of those caveats. Teen readers will certainly pick up that this is an alternate London at the mention of a new element called 'cavorite,' a green glowing stone that resists gravity.

What will draw them are the colorful side characters like Scheherazade the parrot, Hayao the Goku-like little samurai's assistant, and the young, shambling officer Murphy of the police; the excitement of secret labs, tunnels, and rooftop chases as the girls use their wits, talents, and equipment to get out of deathly threats; and above all, the fun voice. The ending points toward a series, which promises even more fun.

Copyright © 2013 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

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