REVIEW: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

REVIEW: Boneshaker by Cherie PriestBoneshaker (The Clockwork Century #1) by Cherie Priest
Published: Tor Books (2009), Paperback, 416pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Sci-fi, Steampunk

In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive. (from Amazon)

It’s a slightly involved story regarding how I discovered Cherie Priest, so I won’t get into it here. But very quickly: I discovered her blog, I discovered her newest book, I preordered it, I got it, I read it, I liked it a lot.

Okay, not “loved.” Liked a lot. Really a lot. Very nearly loved– but it’s so dark and kinda depressing and it scares me a little, and those things keep it from earning a place on my “OMG I love it” list. (I suppose that means it’s actually terribly good and I’m just a wimp.) It’s like I have to keep some of my feelings about Boneshaker to myself, because they’re different than I’m used to and I’m kinda embarrassed about them. And I have to think about them some more before I can tell anyone about them, so right now I just like Boneshaker a lot.

I hope that makes sense. And even though I can’t go into detail about what exactly Boneshaker makes me feel, I’ll try to tell you enough about what I like so maybe you’ll feel compelled to read it for yourself. 😀

Generally I don’t like books where parents tag along with the kids on the adventure. Do I want my parents following me on my awesome fantasy journey? Hell no. But if I had a mom like Briar? Hell yes! Especially since she doesn’t show up in Zeke’s storyline until the end. (Also, she can shoot like a mofo.)

I like how Briar and Zeke have an intertwining journey. They don’t follow the same path, they don’t have the same character growths, and they don’t even meet back up with each other until the very end of the book, yet they’re still connected to each other by blood and by fate. It’s pretty nifty, and it doesn’t offend my YA fantasy sensibilities.

For all that I appreciated Briar and Zeke’s adventures, I didn’t much like them as characters. When I started reading Boneshaker, Briar annoyed me with her woe-is-me, woe-is-you hardcore frontier woman shoot-a-cow-skin-it-with-my-teeth-then- make-it-into-a-jacket-and-wear-it-better-than-you-could sort of personality (if that makes sense to anyone but myself) and Zeke annoyed me with his naitivite. I knew I’d either end up loving them or hating them, and unfortunately I’m leaning towards the latter at the moment.

I do appreciate some of their qualities, of course, like Briar’s hardheadedness and Zeke’s instinctive ability to keep himself from being killed, but they were actually overshadowed by the awesomeness of the secondary characters. I found myself wanting to read more about the dude in a steampunk suit of armor than Briar’s reunion with Zeke, and I don’t know if that’s just because I didn’t identify with any of the protagonists or just because they weren’t that likable.

The world of Boneshaker really freaks me out, and it’s not just because zombies scare the crap outta me. Seattle in Boneshaker is not the ideal, stereotypical Western town found in 1950’s movies. It’s more like London in 28 Days Later, mixed with a bit of London in this Sherlock Holmes movie. It’s dark. It’s dangerous. It’s depressing. And inside the walls where the gas lives? It’s all that times TEN. I would hate to live in the world of Boneshaker, even with all the nifty steampunk technology (the airships!).

There’s a whole bunch more I could go into, but I think it’d be more fun if you found some stuff out for yourself. If you like horror movies (or books), if you like steampunk, if you like Southern Gothic or alternate Victorian settings, if you like gun-toting women with a chip on their shoulder, you’ll like Boneshaker. You may even end up slightly speechless, like I am!

Read: October 2009

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest”

    1. Well, I ride the bus so much during the week that it certainly helps me bump up my books read during the month count, for sure. Yay for public transportation? (It’s a good thing I don’t get carsick!)

  1. whew! that was some review–i laughed at several points (she can shoot like a mofo!). i haven’t heard of this novel and it sounds a tad different from my usual fare.

    i’m glad you were honest, pointing out specific things that you took issue with. i can see how the characters could get annoying and that’s always a bummer for me too.

    thanks for the chuckle and info!

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