Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century #1) by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At its heart, Boneshaker, set in 1880, is the story of Briar Wilkes and her son, Ezekiel, estranged from society and from one another by the mysterious and fateful actions of Briar’s husband (Zeke’s father), Leviticus Blue, and Zeke’s desperate attempt to rewrite history to try and clear his father’s name (along with the threat of zombies thrown in for good measure).

As genre goes, Boneshaker falls under the growing genre of steampunkBoneshaker was my first real experience with steampunk; it was definitely a worthwhile introduction.  What makes Boneshaker unique within that genre (zombie infestation aside) is that it’s set in North America rather than the traditional Victorian setting of London, England.  The zombie aspect provides an element of danger and even a touch of horror, but never pushes the horror envelope very far, lacking the overly-gratuitous descriptions of zombie carnage that might turn off slightly more sensitive readers, like me.

Ms. Priest takes nice advantage of the classic scary movie technique where moviegoers can more often hear the monster, without actually seeing it.  Throughout the story, thundering hoards of zombies (“rotters”) can been heard shambling with hunting intent behind closed doors, in outer hallways, on upper floors and outside just beyond the range visibility thanks to the fog of Blight gas filling the streets of downtown Seattle.

It’s clear from reading Boneshaker that Ms. Priest has done her homework on Seattle history. However, unlike some stories where the author’s research ends up written into the story as lots of unnecessary, albeit sometimes interesting, descriptive information, Ms. Priest uses a light touch so the story flows quite naturally without giving the impression she’s trying hard to squeeze in her research so it doesn’t go to waste.  Additionally, Ms. Priest has intentionally crafted her setting as an *alternate* history, taking liberties where necessary to tell the story she wants to tell the way she wants to tell it.  The result is that the story’s history comes off quite believably (again, zombie infestation aside) although I’d be curious to know what Seattle area readers might have to say after reading it.

In addition to its two main characters, Briar and Ezekiel, Boneshaker hosts a number of memorable characters (both likeable and unlikeable) which further bring the story to life; although it hardly seems appropriate to refer to them as secondary both because they are complexly written and because they are so essential to the integrity of the story.  By the end I found myself caring as much about what happens to each of them as I did about Briar and Zeke.

I definitely have Boneshaker on my list of books to read again.

NOTE: At the time of this review Boneshaker has been nominated for a Hugo Award.

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Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1) Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This series might best be described as young James Bond in a land of the fairies.  Only, instead of working for British Secret Intelligence Services, this protagonist is out for himself.

The story features the ruthless criminal mastermind and child prodigy, Artemis Fowl, who uses cunning and his vast fortune to get more of what he wants – money.  Admittedly, I didn’t finish the book, so feel free to stop reading this review here if you’d like.  However, after only the first few chapters it was clear this book is more focused on plot than it is on character development.  Despite Artemis’s young age his personality is already firmly established.  He behaves, thinks and acts almost entirely like an adult (not very interesting in a child character) so that I’m not entirely certain the story would change much if he was an adult.  Additionally, he’s always a step or two ahead of everyone else which not very compelling (at least for me) because there’s no perceived risk of failure.  Although, in this case, I’m not sure I can support Artemis’ goals (no spoilers here) enough to worry for him that he may fail.

Clever idea, cleverly written and likely very entertaining, but to quote author Dawn Metcalf, “It’s just not my thing”.

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