Book Review: Boneshaker

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Book: Boneshaker
Series: Clockwork Century, Book 1
Author: Cherie Priest
Genres: fantasy, steampunk, adventure, horror, historic

Synopsis (from Amazon book page):

“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.”

Notes of Interest:

I’d heard about and had been wanting to read this book for some time. So, now that I’ve finally had a chance to dig into it, all I can say is, “Wow. I’m glad I did.” 🙂 This is going to be one of those reviews where the book delivered exactly what I expected it to deliver, so finding enough words to critique it is going to be a challenge.
By the way, I’ll insert a reminder that a critique is not automatically a negative review; it’s a review. Period. Too many people associate the word “critique” with negative connotations, but when I like something I often find myself speechless. So, that why critiques are actually harder for me to write about books that I thoroughly enjoyed. I have no notes to work from because the immersion was that good and the mistakes were that few. So, I end up floundering for what to say when analyzing it. That’s a good thing, trust me.

What could have made it better for me:

To be honest, this is one of those books that I’m very pleased to say I don’t think could be improved upon. I think I spotted one technical error in the entire work, and it wasn’t major enough to jot it down, and I was too into the story to care. That was the only break in immersion for me, and I don’t even remember what it was now.

What I liked about it:

Everything about this book was a win for me. I love the genre combinations. I love the fact that the leading lady in the adventure was a middle-aged woman with a teenage son. I applauded the diversity in the cast of characters. I enjoyed the elements of adventure embodied with the sky pirates and territorial ground factions amid anarchy. I anticipated the zombie-meets-wild-west elements of horror. The steampunk atmosphere and use of all five senses scattered throughout this book to make it such a tangible read. And the real historical references blended so shamelessly with alternate historical references, particularly where the civil war was concerned, was intriguing and imaginative. This mother-and-son adventure is unique, exciting, and memorable for both of those reasons.
I am prone to admitting my biases in these reviews so that the author and other readers are able to pinpoint where they may disagree with my opinions simply because of differences in taste, rather than bad writing or story-telling. So, I have one and only one bias to admit here. I live in WA state, and I have been to historic Seattle and the Underground beneath Pioneer Square many times. I would say it’s impossible for a writer to come away from such things and not be inspired to incorporate them in a story somehow.
Any time that Zeke and Briar ran through the underground tunnels, I was reliving those places. When the skylights in the sidewalks were mentioned, I think I squeed aloud because those are one of my favourite things about that area. In fact, Seattle’s Underground and those sidewalk-skylights inspired the undercity setting in my own novel series. So, I absolutely loved being able to fully visualize the history and environment from personal experience. This is probably the first time I’ve ever been local enough to an author’s choice of setting for the names, locations, and certain circumstances to feel warm and familiar. Even if the city wasn’t ever really lost to a toxic gas and rotter invasion back in the 1800’s, we all know something haunts those inverted waffle-blocks, right? 😉 I think this book will always be a personal favourite for those reasons in addition to it just being a great read.

Recommendation:

If you like the genres mentioned above, I think you would like this book. It’s a straightforward adventure in an unusual setting with memorable texture, yet the characters have enough depth and drive that they are what define the plot. This book is about a young boy’s growing pains and quest to find out the truth about his father, and his mother’s determination to do whatever it takes to save her son’s life … even if it means putting herself in physical danger and telling him the dark secrets she’s kept from him all his life. The story-telling is interesting. The quality of the writing is nearly flawless. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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