Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century #1) by Cherie Priest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A solid entertainer. Gritty, stifling, dark and yet full of an adventurous energy.
I’ve always like steampunk as a genre, though I’ve enjoyed it more with comics than books – more accessible and easier to find and try out, for me anyway.
This series and Ms. Priest’s writing were things that had hit my radar some time ago but it remained on the “to read” list until I found it this past winter in a bookshop (one can only afford to keep ordering online so much and my “to read” list could bankrupt a small country I think…).
The story takes place in a Seattle of yester-century, set several years after a massive disaster that led to a huge chunk of the city being walled-off and sealed. Within those walls, the very Earth bleeds a noxious gas that is not just damaging to things living and dead – it also kills and brings the living back to un-life. So steampunk zombies.
Into this we have our two protagonists: Briar Wilkes, a single mother who works herself to the bone and lives under a dark cloud and suspicious/hateful gazes, and her son Zeke who is very much the surly and slightly rebellious teenager.
Zeke takes it upon himself to sneak into the city to find out the truth about his father and the horrible event that destroyed some many lives and still did as the Blight-fog leaked out with the air and rain – and Briar must find a newfound strength of will and determination as she goes to find her wayward son, hoping that he still lives.
What follows is a pair of journeys happening side by side, into the devastated underbelly of both a city and in some ways, human behaviour. Very well written, engaging and filled with characters that have a lot of life and, well, character. You can feel the stifling air in the enclosed part of the city, the pervasive sadness and isolation even when there are several characters together – and most of all, the claustrophobic emotion that the place elicits under Priests’s writing is palpable. It made me want to do everything I could to avoid wearing a gas mask even more than good sense does anyway.
While perhaps not everyones cup of tea, there is definitely a lot to recommend this book even to people who might ordinarily not read such adventure/steampunk stories. For fans of either of those and especially for those who like their stories to have more than just fast-paced action, constant witty and pithy dialogue and to have some depth to the narrative – I would say at the very least, give it a try. You might like it more than you expect. I know I did.