Book Log #96: Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

I haven’t read every single thing Cherie Priest has published quite yet, but I love me some Eden Moore novels, and I have a healthy respect for Fathom. But those other books? They’re just going to have to stand aside and make way for Boneshaker, because I mean, DAMN.

It’s got everything: alternate history! Steampunky mad science! 1880’s Seattle! Airships! Air pirates! A plucky young lad and his fierce and fearsome mother! And, which is what really pushed it over the top for me, zombies! What’s not to love?

Boneshaker is set in an alternate timeline where the Civil War has dragged out for an extra fifteen years and where the Klondike Gold Rush came early, spurring an earlier settlement of the Pacific Northwest–and a Russian-sponsored contest to build a mining machine capable of digging into the frozen ice of the north for gold. Dr. Leviticus Blue and his Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine would have had the contest in the bag. But his machine went horribly awry, destroying much of downtown Seattle. And to add horrific insult to already dire injury, the Boneshaker dug deep into the earth and unleashed the Blight gas that turned its victims into shambling undead.

Now it’s sixteen years later. Those who escaped the devastation of Seattle have erected a two-hundred-foot wall around its remains to keep in not only the undead victims of the Blight, but the continuing rising of the gas itself. Blue’s widow Briar Wilkes and her son Ezekiel are among those settled in the Outskirts around the wall, until Zeke gets it into his head to penetrate the city in search of evidence to clear his father’s infamous name. He is trapped within by an earthquake, and Briar must go in to save him.

I had a few quibbles with certain bits of pacing, but honestly? They’re small enough quibbles that I just didn’t care. Briar was too much fun as a heroine, cut from the same tough-mother cloth as Sarah Connor, only with a quieter, less desperate strength to her, and she was a lovely complement to the innocence and intrinsic bravery and goodness of her son. Many of the characters they meet within the Wall are equally memorable: Lucy the one-armed barmaid, whose single arm is mechanical; Jeremiah Swakhammer, clad in the best badassed armor a steampunk hero could ask for and armed with the best badassed zombie-stunning gun; and, of course, the mysterious Dr. Minnericht, who is said to be responsible for much of what holds what’s left of Seattle together and who is deeply feared nonetheless.

Moreoever, as a Seattle resident, I had great fun reading Priest’s descriptions of this alternate downtown Seattle. I walk these streets on a daily basis, and what really sold me on the realism was the mentions of the sidewalk letter markers to tell you what street you’re on. With that kind of detail, I kept catching myself looking out for “rotters” on my way home from work. More importantly, I burned through this book as fast as I possibly could and am quite anxious for a sequel! Five stars.

Published by

Angela Korra'ti

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.