BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest
I’d heard a lot about Cherie Priest’s novel, Boneshaker, before I picked it up. A lot of readers herald it as the new launch of steampunk, or maybe one of the major foundations. I don’t think Priest set out to do that. I think she wanted to write a great adventure novel about a mom willing to go the distance to save a son who had to know the truth about his heritage.
Because that’s what this book is about. The fact that the world the action takes place in is just icing on the cake.
Briar Wilkes is the type of strong-willed woman that shaped pioneer America with her love and her determination. She won me over immediately by being tough and honest and caring. Priest nails this woman’s character from the get-go and I rooted for her throughout the book.
I was honestly not surprised to see that the author could pull off the strong woman character because Priest has written other books about women that stand outside of convention. I was surprised at how well she wrote a teenage boy. Zeke Wilkes was just the kind of boy I raised – three times. Independent, hard-headed, and a wanderer who wasn’t afraid of anything. He was a good character too.
Priest really brings her alternate version of Seattle to life in ways that were surprising. The zombification of the people trapped in the city when the Boneshaker split open the earth is the only mundane thing about the book. The steampunk trappings come almost effortlessly, as does the lower levels of the city and all the in-fighting between the various groups.
This book is a sprawling adventure threaded through with peril after peril. Priest flips the focus back and forth between Briar and Zeke, and never truly flags, though there are some parts that are more introspective than others.
As I read, though, it seemed like world after world opened up, all of them filled with possibilities. I was caught up in the world of the air pirates and the fact that the Civil War was still going on. I know that Priest has written a couple more books set in this world that aren’t quite sequels, and I’m looking forward to digging into those as well.