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Book Review: Boneshaker


I decided to try my hand at writing an extended book review (here is my review on GoodReads), perhaps once or twice a month. We'll see how it goes. For my inaugural review, I've chosen Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. This book has been on my reading list for a while, recommended to me by the Libby app. In this year of continuing pandemic, I slipped in this book between Wolf Hall and The Stand. Boy, am I glad I did! Without further ado, here is my review–I'll try to avoid any spoilers.

What initially intrigued me about Boneshaker is that the story takes place around Seattle. Being somewhat familiar with the city, I wondered how an author of a steampunk fantasy describes the Emerald City. Well, the Seattle Cherie Priest describes is far different from the Seattle of today. The action takes place over 150 years ago in the early days of the Civil War. Adventurers hungry for fortune have flooded the Pacific Northwest, eager to reach Alaska with its promise of gold. Only there's been a catastrophe in Seattle, an experimental mining machine has released a gas that essentially turns people into zombies. The city has been walled off with the one-time residents living hardscrabble lives in the shadow of the wall.

The descriptions of the city and surrounding environment include a few references people familiar with the greater Seattle area will recognize, such as Denny Way, Bainbridge Island, the Seattle waterfront, and the extensive underground. These references are pretty cool and, at least for me, add a bit of pleasant seasoning to the story.

The plot follows the attempted rescue of the teenage lad Ezekiel, who has unadvisedly entered Seattle to learn about his family's past, by his mother Briar Wilkes. The narrative is divided between the two characters. Personally, I found the scenes from Briar's perspective more interesting. Perhaps being a parent myself, I have a better appreciation of her emotional state. I really enjoy Briar as the protagonist because she is as tough as nails and no-nonsense. By no means is she a weeping violet, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds and various unsavory characters. That being said, the scenes from Ezekiel's point of view are also highly entertaining.

One thing Cherie Priest does extremely well is line up the obstacles for Briar. In her attempt to rescue her son, she has to overcome violent drug dealers, all while surviving a hostile landscape of poison gas and ravenous zombies. The way these obstacles intertwine throughout the story is quite impressive.

In conclusion, anyone interested in fantasy or steampunk or alternate history will likely find Boneshaker an enjoyable read. Currently, I am reading the second book in the Clockwork Century series called Dreadnought, which features an entirely new protagonist but takes place in the same steampunk alternate history as Boneshaker. This book is just as entertaining as Boneshaker, leading me to believe the entire five-book series is worthy of reading.


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