- Big fan of Cherie Priest – I totally blame Boneshaker.
- How can you go wrong with a book printed with sepia ink?
Summary from GoodReads:
Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.
Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.
What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?
Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.
In my opinion, Cherie Priest is the reigning queen author of Steampunk novels, and Dreadnought is a solid example of why. It’s hard to explain Steampunk to someone who doesn’t already know what it is – I mean, you can bring Verne into the picture and then try to bring the word “mash-up” into the mix (citing Glee for those who tend to not read much) and then finish off with a flourish of “something like that” and hope that they get it… or you can just hand over a copy of Boneshaker and tell them to read it.
Sure, the historical aspects have been twisted and pulled a bit – but these aren’t historical fiction novels (unless your world actually does contain zombies). The thing about Cherie Priest’s books are – even though you know they aren’t historically accurate, the manner in which she writes them makes you doubt that more than once as you are reading the story. In Dreadnought, there are many scenes in which Mercy is treating soldiers, in which relationships are being developed between the North and the South on the Dreadnought itself (which alone is.. man, so awesome to read about), and it seems plausible that these things did, in fact, happen. Another thing that helps is the way that Priest implements things such as dirigibles and zombies without batting an eye at how unusual they really are. Everything is incorporated into the story in such a matter-of-fact way that if you, the reader, seems to bat an eyelash at it, you would be the one out of the ordinary.
Mercy Lynch’s journey from Virginia to Seattle, Washington is a fun, romping good time. There’s adventure, there’s flying vehicles, there’s massive trains and there’s zombies… and it all makes perfect sense. Boneshaker and Dreadnought are two shining examples of just how great Steampunk books can be, and I cannot wait to see what Cherie Priest comes up with next.
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