The Inventor's Secret


New from Andrea Cremer, the New York Times bestselling author of the Nightshade novels, comes an action-packed alternate-history steampunk adventure.

In this world, sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth, they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no ...

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The Inventor's Secret

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New from Andrea Cremer, the New York Times bestselling author of the Nightshade novels, comes an action-packed alternate-history steampunk adventure.

In this world, sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth, they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape  or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empire’s Machineworks.

The Inventor’s Secret is the first book of a YA steampunk series set in an alternate nineteenth-century North America where the Revolutionary War never took place and the British Empire has expanded into a global juggernaut propelled by marvelous and horrible machinery. Perfect for fans of Libba Bray's The Diviners, Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan and Phillip Reeve's Mortal Engines.


* "Cremer...creates an inventive blend of steampunk and alternative history in this new series. She gives readers a fantastical world with mechanical wonders and an opulent vintage setting. The characters are interesting and well developed. Readers will be drawn to future installments."—VOYA, starred review

"[A]n entertaining romp in a richly imaginative setting."—Kirkus Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Sixteen-year-old Charlotte isn't old enough to have witnessed the thunderous defeat of the American Revolution, but this resourceful young girl is suffering from its aftermath. As the daughter of resistance fighters, she and other refugees in this 1816 early steampunk world, are struggling to eke out a life in the dark shadow of the rapacious British Empire. It isn't easy: Just avoiding the robotic Imperial Labor Gatherers and the human-eating rats can drain your initiative. That changes with the arrival of a new exile with a frayed memory who carries the scent of secret that could change everything. An exciting series series starter from the author of the popular Nightshade novels.

From the Publisher
“Original and highly entertaining . . . Cremer delivers it all: intrigue, romance, dangerous adventures, imaginative machines, and perilous secrets. What more could anyone ask for? This is a delightful read.”— The New York Journal of Books

"Cremer does most everything right here: her fantastical colonial setting is well imagined, the characters have depth, and the adventures are heart-stopping."—Booklist

"On balance, it’s an entertaining romp in a richly imaginative setting."—Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Setting her self-described steampunk novel in an alternate 1816 in which the American Revolution failed and an insurgent war against a brutal British regime persists, Cremer (the Nightshade series) subverts the genre’s typical Victorian conventions with varying degrees of success. Sixteen-year-old Charlotte lives with her brother and other exiled children of Resistance fighters in the Wildlands outside the Floating City of New York. The appearance of an amnesiac boy with apparent ties to the city provides a reason for Charlotte to join an expedition to the glittering metropolis, affording Cremer opportunities to dress her heroine in silken finery and nurture a love triangle. Though a few inventions (e.g. the Floating City’s Great Wheel) inspire wonder, much of the technology feels too advanced a mere 40 years post–Declaration of Independence, distracting from the more intriguing political ramifications and cultural developments of this divergent timeline. Cremer handles the fantastical elements far better, hinting at rather than telegraphing the “secret” of the title. In revealing it, she sets herself up for a sequel that could be more cohesive than the series opener. Ages 12–up. Agent: InkWell Management. (Apr.)
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Gwen Amborski
The Inventor’s Secret is an excellent addition to steampunk young adult novels. It combines debutante balls of society with aircraft and artificial humans. Romance and mystery keep the reader intrigued till the end of the novel. Charlotte is a strong and brave. Her support of the resistance along with the group of “misfit” children is well crafted. Readers who enjoy steampunk with hints of romance, mystery, and political turmoil will appreciate this first book in a new series. Reviewer: Gwen Amborski, Teen Reviewer; Ages 11 to 18.
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Adrienne Amborski
The Inventor’s Secret introduces a nineteenth-century America where Britannia rules the population, which is broken into a caste system. The poor, controlled by the elite society, are forced to work, while the elite reside in the Floating City. Meanwhile, Revolutionaries are hiding and building up forces to create a defense against the British Empire. A group of children and teens of the Revolutionaries is hiding in the underground world of the Catacombs. Led by Ash and Charlotte, a brother and sister, the group is busy creating inventions for the resistance. Charlotte has just turned sixteen and is eager to become more active in the resistance movement, while Ash is hesitant about his sister assuming a dangerous role in the war. A new member with a murky past has entered the group and caught the attention of Charlotte. Jack is a daring and handsome young man, who has secrets that will help the resistance but will endanger him as well. While scouting in the woods, Charlotte saves a scared and odd young man from the Rotpots, metal apparatuses used by the Imperial Labor Gatherers to capture Revolutionaries to take them to labor camps. The boy has no memory of his past, so the group nicknames him Grave due to quirky behavior. Charlotte, Ash, Jack, Meg, and Grave embark on a clandestine mission to the Floating City to aid the Revolutionaries’ cause. During the mission, characters’ secrets are revealed, and Charlotte and Jack’s relationship is tested by the introduction Jack’s dashing older brother, Coe. Cremer, best known for the Nightshade series and Invisibility (with David Levithan [Penguin, 2013/Voya June 2013]), creates an inventive blend of steampunk and alternative history in this new series. She gives readers a fantastical world with mechanical wonders and an opulent vintage setting. The characters are interesting and well developed. Readers will be drawn to future installments. Reviewer: Adrienne Amborski; Ages 11 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Cremer, author of the "Nightshade" books (Philomel), has veered into a new world with this, the first title in an alternate-history series. She combines elements of steampunk and Victoriana to create an America in which the British won the Revolutionary War, descendants of the rebels are forced to labor in indentured servitude to atone for their forefathers' errors, and the children of those descendants are up to their eyeballs in plots against the government. Although the premise is promising, the execution is a bit of a miss. Character development is superficial, and a lack of historical context will exasperate readers. Most distressing of all is the female lead, Charlotte, who spends more time dithering over potential love interests than she does infiltrating the enemy and marshaling her troops. Teens who have come to expect strong female characters such as Katniss of "The Hunger Games" (Scholastic) and Alexia Tarabotti in the "Parasol Protectorate" series (Orbit) by Gail Carriger will be disappointed. Snappy dialogue and proficient world-building won't be enough to draw in kids.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK
Kirkus Reviews
Paranormal-romance queen Cremer (the Nightshade series) tries her hand at writing steampunk with an alternative-history twist. The year is 1816. The British have won the Revolutionary War, enslaved the Americans, and turned Boston into a prison and New York City into a socially stratified power center. Giant, robotic Imperial Labor Gatherers and man-eating rats terrorize the population. A colony of teenage resistance fighters are hiding in a remote maze of caves in the New York Wilderness. Tomboy heroine Charlotte rescues a mysteriously invincible but amnesiac boy, nicknamed Grave, and brings him back to the Catacombs. The plot thickens when fellow rebel, tough guy Jack, turns out to be the disgraced son of an elite admiral who holds a powerful position in Empire society. Piloting the made-for-movies Dragonfly, a fanciful insectlike aircraft tricked out in brass and leather, Jack flies Charlotte and her companions to the multilayered Floating City. There, disguised as aristocrats and servants from the islands, the rebels attempt to infiltrate the establishment and solve the mystery of Grave. Charlotte's steamy romantic intrigues with Jack and his Machiavellian brother dominate much of the action, leaving some plot details frustratingly opaque, including the titular secret itself. The cliffhanger at the conclusion of the novel clearly anticipates a sequel. On balance, it's an entertaining romp in a richly imaginative setting. (Steampunk. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780147514387
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 7/14/2015
  • Series: Inventor's Secret Series
  • Pages: 416
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Andrea Cremer

Andrea Cremer is the internationally bestselling author of the Nightshade series, which includes Nightshade, Wolfsbane, Bloodrose, Snakeroot, Rift and Rise. She is also the author of Invisibility, which she co-wrote with David Levithan. When she's not writing novels, Andrea puts her Ph.D. to work teaching classes in writing and history at Macalester College. She lives in Minneapolis, MN. You can visit her online at or follow her on Twitter @andreacremer.

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Read an Excerpt

New York Wildlands, Amherst Province, 18161.Every heartbeat brought the boy closer. Charlotte heard the shallow pulls of his breath, the uneven, heavy pounding of his footfalls. She stayed curled within the hollows of the massive tree’s roots, body perfectly still other than the sweat that beaded on her forehead in the close air. A single drop of moisture trailed along her temple, dripped from her jaw, and disappeared into her bodice.
 The boy threw another glance over his shoulder. Five more steps, and he’d hit the tripwire. Four. Three. Two. One.
 He cried out in alarm as his ankle hooked on the taut line stretched between two trees. His yelp cut off when his body slammed into the forest floor, forcing the air from his lungs.
 Charlotte lunged from her hiding place, muscles shrieking in relief as they snapped out of the tight crouch. Her practiced feet barely touched the ground and she ran with as much silence as the low rustle of her skirts would allow.
 The boy moaned and started to push himself up on one elbow. He grunted when Charlotte kicked him over onto his back and pinned him against the ground with one foot.
 His wide eyes fixed on the revolver she had aimed at his chest.
 “Please,” he whispered.
 She adjusted her aim—right between his eyes—and shook her head. “I’m not in the habit of granting the requests of strangers.”Charlotte put more weight onto her foot, and he squirmed.
 “Who are you?” she asked, and wished her voice were gritty instead of gentle.
 He didn’t blink; his eyes mirrored the rust-tinged gleam of the breaking dawn.
 “I don’t know.”
 “Say again?” She frowned.
 Fear bloomed in his tawny irises. “I . . . I don’t know.”
 “You don’t know,” she repeated.
 He shook his head.
 She glanced at the tangle of brush from which he’d emerged. “What are you running from?”
 He frowned, and again said, “I don’t know.”
 “If you don’t know, then why were you running?” she snapped.
 “The sounds.” He shuddered.
 “Sounds?” Charlotte felt as though frost had formed on the bare skin of her arms. She scanned the forest, dread building in her chest.The whistle shrieked as though her fear had summoned it. The iron beast, tall as the trees around it, emerged from the thick woods on the same deer trail the boy had followed. Imperial Labor Gatherers were built like giants. The square, blunt head of the machine pushed through the higher branches of the trees, snapping them like twigs. Two multijointed brass arms sprouted on each side of its wide torso and its long fingers were spread wide, ready to clutch and capture. Charlotte’s eyes immediately found the thick bars of its hollow rib cage.
 “Who sent a Gatherer after you?”
 His voice shook. “Is that what it is?”
 “Are you an idiot?” She spat on the ground beside him. “You must know a Rotpot when you see one! Everyone out here knows how the Empire hunts.”
 The screech of metal in need of oiling cooled Charlotte’s boiling temper. A horn sounded. Another answered in the distance. But not nearly distant enough.
 She didn’t have time to mull over options. She lifted her foot from the boy’s chest and offered him her hand. The only advantage they had over the Rotpots was that the lumbering iron men maneuvered slowly in the forest.
 “We need to leave this place. Now.”
 The boy gripped her fingers without hesitation, but he shot a terrified glance at the approaching Gatherer. They were partially concealed from view by a huge oak, but the machine was close enough that Charlotte could see its operator shifting gears from within the giant’s iron skull. She watched as the man reached up, pulled down a helmet with telescoping goggles, and began to swivel the Rotpot’s head around.
 Charlotte hesitated a moment too long. And he saw her.
 Cranking hard on a wheel, which made steam spout from the machine’s shoulders, the operator turned the iron man to pursue them.
 “Go!” Charlotte shoved the boy away from her. “Run east! I’ll catch up.”
 “What are you—” he started to ask, but began to run when she pushed him so hard that he almost fell over.
 When she was certain he wasn’t looking back, Charlotte reached into her skirt pocket. Her hand found cool metal, and she pulled a small object from within the folds of muslin. It only took a few winds of the key before sputters and sparks leapt from her palm. She sighed and regretfully set the magnet mouse on the ground, pointing it at the encroaching machine. The little creature whirred and skittered away, its spring-anchored wheels accommodating the rough path she’d set it upon.
 “Come on.”
 When Charlotte caught up with the boy, she ignored the puzzled look on his face and grasped his hand, forcing him to run with her into the dark western wood, away from the now bloodred haze of early sun that stretched through the forest canopy.
 Between gasps of breath, his fingers tightened on hers. She glanced at him.
 His tawny eyes had sharpened, and he peered at her like a hawk. “What’s your name?” he asked.
 Charlotte dropped his hand and gathered her skirts to accommodate her leap over a moss-covered log.
 “Thank you for not leaving me back there, Charlotte.”
 She looked away from him, nodded, and ran a bit faster. Behind them she heard the explosion she’d been waiting for. Though they were hardly out of danger, Charlotte smiled, feeling a surge of triumph. But a moment later, a single thought chased her giddiness away.
 Ash is going to kill me.

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