Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century, #1) by Cherie Priest
How did I get it: The library.

Why did I read it:  I’ve been wanting to read the Clockwork Century series for awhile. Initially, I was just going to read Dreadnought before I started my review copy of Ganymede… but I felt like it might be a good idea to actually start with Boneshaker instead.

How I would rate it: 3 out of 5 stars.


In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

Review: Compared to other Steampunk novels I’ve attempted and abandoned, Priest made excellent use of her setting and really did a great job of creating convincing zombies. I felt that everything about this book was really solid when it came to the world, premise, events, back story, and concepts. The writing was great too, but when it comes to characters, my feelings are a bit mixed.

For the most part, Zeke was my favorite character. I really enjoyed following him around as he dealt with all sorts of strange people. I felt a lot of concern and empathy towards because he was so desperately seeking any sort of connection to an older male relative. I don’t know if this was ultimately the same thing as getting inside Zeke’s head, but at least I understood why he was doing what he was doing and I felt involved in his explorations. When the chapters switched to Briar, I felt like I’d been left outside of a house in the freezing cold banging on the door for someone to let me in. A lot of minor characters shared their stories throughout Boneshaker and that was really fascinating, but there were so many moments that could have been much more worth my while if I had known Briar a bit better. I liked how tough she was, but I feel like I was never given access to her thoughts or any other motivation she had besides finding her son.

As the book neared its end, I realized that certain aspects of Briar hadn’t been explained because of the really big reveal saved for the last few pages of Boneshaker. I found –and still find– that to be a really frustrating approach to telling a story because honestly I don’t think the book would have changed much for me if I’d know what happened to Leviticus Blue. I appreciated the fact that Leviticus Blue was not as important as the journey both Briar and Zeke go on or the way they found one another again. I also realize the truth couldn’t be shared immediately in terms of Zeke. Both mother and son had to get beyond literal and figurative walls to get to the point of secret-swapping, but from a reader’s point of view, I think being left to assume any number of strange things in terms of Blue’s fate only made everything that much more anti-climactic when Briar finally told Zeke the truth. The situation might have been a good deal more compelling if I’d known the truth and had been waiting to see what would happen when Zeke found out.

In conclusion, good and fairly entertaining. Boneshaker‘s clever concepts may have severely overshadowed its emotionally unavailable main female character, but I’m very interested in reading the other books in the Clockwork Century series.

Other Reviews:

About April

I'm a librarian, reader, and writer whose main goal in life is to be able to swim in books the way Scrooge McDuck swims in money. Although my reading choices will always be wildly eclectic and I never plan on leaving any genre unexplored, my favorite reads tend to be Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Gay Romance, or Historical Fiction. You can e-mail me at inspector[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com.
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3 Responses to Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

  1. I enjoyed this one for the world created, and the love of a mother willing to go through hell for her child. It did keep me going with the book. Very nice review.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Ganymede by Cherie Priest | Lair of the Green Knight

  3. Pingback: Review: Cherie Priest – Boneshaker « Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Reviews

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