My love for Ms. Priest’s work has been professed before so this review is hardly unbiased. Indeed, Boneshaker is certainly one of the catalysts that sent me on brief dip into the steampunk pool. It is also the only steampunk novel I read this month that was set in America. If my appreciation of Ms. Priest’s work wasn’t enough to predispose me towards liking this novel she went ahead and set it in Seattle which, despite being a city I’ve only visited twice for all too brief a time and despite being born and bread in the shadow of the city that never sleeps, is a place that has a strange place in my heart; I guess it’s a city I guess I’m half in love with (with a gorgeous library that was hit hard by recent budget changes but if you visit you should definitely check out!).
Of course the Seattle of Boneshaker is not the Seattle we know. It is city that has become a wasteland thanks to the terrible Boneshaker built by Dr. Leviticus Blue which went on an uncontrolled rampage and somehow unleashed a hidden pocket of deadly Blight gas that not only kills all it touches, but brings those it kills back as flesh-craving rotters (a history told much better by the book’s introduction available over at The Clockwork Century). The book opens up years later with Leviticus’ wife, Briar and son Ezekial (Zeke) living in the Outskirts; a town that arose around the now walled-up Seattle. Briar and Zeke now go by the last name Wilkes, Briar’s maiden name, which has the advantage (for Zeke at least) in that Briar’s father is something of a folk hero amongst the poor, disrepute, and downtrodden of the Outskirts. The pair scrapes by, at least until Zeke hares off to the Blight filled Seattle in order to clear the name of both his father and grandfather, who the not-so downtrodden believe was a criminal. It isn’t long before Briar and copious amounts of adventure and excitement, follow.