[Review] Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

[rating:3.5]
Author: Cherie Priest
Series:
 The Clockwork Century #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Tor
Pages: 414
Published: 2009
Goodreads | Amazon (UK/US)

First sentence:

Unpaved, uneven trails pretended to be roads; they tied the nation’s coasts together like laces holding a boot, binding it with crossed strings and crossed fingers.
Blurb

In an alternate 1860s Seattle, Briar Wilkes and her son Zeke are living hand to mouth on the outskirts of a once bustling city of the gold rush. Sixteen years previous, the city was literally torn asunder by the Boneshaker, a great drill-engine built by Briar’s then husband, Dr. Blue, to mine through Alaska’s ice in search of gold. This terrible disaster not only caused many deaths and ruined livelihoods but unearthed a blight gas that turns anybody who breathes it into the living dead. Now Zeke wants answers. Was his father really to blame? He heads off to the other side of the wall with an old gas mask and an antique rifle and only Briar can bring him back.

Thoughts

Last but not least in Discovering Steampunk: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Boneshaker is a cleverly weaved nail-biting story full of intricacies and hidden history. Beginning with a catastrophic event that shakes the very foundations of Seattle and its’ people, causing them to have to wall off the main part of the town to remove the possibility of blight contamination from the strange gas that was unearthed all those years ago, it reminded me a lot of an action-horror film.

It is a fantastically written piece of fiction. It’s atmospheric, chilling, and dark. The entire story has layers and hidden depths that I can only hope are explored in later books and the rich description paints such a clear picture of the environment that it is just the story and you. It is told from two perspectives, those of Briar and Zeke, and their stories are so tightly connected yet distant with entirely different voices that it really keeps the narrative ever-changing and fresh.

The relationship between Briar Wilkes, and her son Ezekial is explored in depth as he runs off to recredit his family name from beyond the wall, and Briar strives to rescue him from a world of ‘rotters’ (zombies), blight gas which turns people into rotters if breathed, and the criminals who have made a life for themselves there. It is heart-rending and gripping to the very end.

Briar might actually be one of my favourite heroines in modern fiction. She reminds me of a Ripleyesque 80’s action heroine, kicking arse and not just for the sake of it but because she has to. There is no romance, just a grim fight for survival of herself and her son and she is willing to do anything to save him. The strong female heroine is a very difficult trope to manage because very often it is taken too far and you know it’s been used just to make a statement, or they aren’t that strong at all, however, Briar is neither and I love that about her character.

I would recommend Boneshaker for folk who enjoy a good adult novel. There’s no sexual content but if you don’t enjoy adult fiction, you won’t enjoy this as it can be quite slow-going in parts. However, if that doesn’t bother you, then it comes highly recommended from me as a steampunk staple. There’s a bit of a horror element to it, though nothing that will have you hiding under the covers if you read it at night, there are a few zombies, a strong criminal underground, and everything fits together so well. It’s easy to lose yourself in the story and forget that you’re reading a work of fiction.

The Clockwork Century series:

1. Boneshaker
2. Clementine
3. Dreadnought
4. Ganymede