Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Book 1 of The Clockwork Century
Published by Tor Books
Paperback - 416 pages
Published November 2012
Review copy given to me by the publisher
Read the synopsis for Boneshaker on Goodreads
It'll come as no surprise that I've been lusting after the Clockwork Century novels for a good while, so it was with much excitement that I tore into Boneshaker, and I was not disappointed.
Priest has a knack for writing strong female protagonists without creating a cardboard cutout that has no depth. Briar Wilke's determination to find her son takes her into some pretty intense situations yet she's able to keep her cool, albeit waveringly, while she trudges on through the ruins of the old city. That's not to say that Priest neglects the male members of her cast; Jeremiah Swakhammer is a powerhouse of a man who acts with honour, even if it means risking his life in the process. He believes that there’s a better way to live and isn’t afraid to stick his neck out for the cause. I couldn’t really connect with Zeke all that much and I found myself wanting to read more of Briar’s side of the story whenever Zeke turned up.
The two things that drew me to Boneshaker were the zombies and the steampunk setting, and I found both of these elements to be extremely enjoyable. The zombies, or ‘rotters’ as they’re called, are victims of the dreaded Blight gas that was released when the Boneshaker destroyed the underground of the city. They help to ramp up the tension during the quieter scenes, but they aren’t just thrown into the mix for the hell of it. I really got a kick out of the alternate Civil War era Seattle, complete with gas masks and brass goggles, zeppelins and wacky machines like Dr. Minnericht’s Doozy Dazer, a kind of sonic launcher that knocks down rotters for a few minutes. The walled-in city has a very Fallout-esque feel to it; a poison-sky, decaying buildings and danger around every corner.
One of the things I loved about Priest’s writing is her dialogue, which is snappy and the interaction between characters is fluid. Briar’s initial interaction with Captain Cly on the zeppelins in particular shows this. This also continues with the twisted and corrupt Dr. Minnericht, who I couldn’t help but read in the voice of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. It’s mostly the mask, but also the dark and borderline insane intellect behind it.
Boneshaker is a fantastic read and a terrific introduction to steampunk; the streets beneath the poisoned city are teeming with interesting characters struggling to survive in a well-crafted world. Priest’s Clockwork Century is off to one hell of a start and I can’t wait for more.