Boneshaker by Cherie Priest | Goodreads
Aaaaaaaaaarrrgh. I had been wanting to read this for years. And when I say years I mean YEARS, because it took me several years to buy it, and then several more years to have it sat, unread, on my bookshelf.
I’m a terrible person.
So, having finally got around to reading it…. I am disappoint. Yes. I AM. DISAPPOINT.
Why? Because I was expecting (and I quote, from the glowing critical reviews) “rollicking pace” and “pure mad adventure”. Pace and MAD ADVENTURE MY ARSE. For two thirds of this book blimming nothing happened! What actually happened???? Like, Briar and Zeke climbed through tunnels. Oh my god, so many tunnels. This book consisted 9/10 of just… blimming TUNNEL DESCRIPTIONS. I swear, at one point I was pretty sure that if I had to read “They were standing in another tunnel. Against the wall, a ladder leant upwards towards the hatch. There were boxes in the corner. The wooden hatch was sealed with strips of rubber in the distance the wheeze of the bellows could be heard ETC” I would actually just DNF this book.I was expecting AIR SHIP CHASES, ZOMBIE CHASES, AMAZING EXCITEMENT. There was approximately ONE scene incorporating each of those until about 300 pages in (after which, admittedly, things got a lot more exciting). But you know what’s really heartbreaking? Up until that point I was bored. Yes, actually bored, and that’s despite the steampunk, kick-ass heroine, cool plot premise, and ZOMBIES.
Definitely, this novel suffered from over description of arbitrary details, mainly involving people picking up and putting down lamps, Briar readjusting her coat, Briar shifting her rifle from shoulder to shoulder, people opening doors in tunnels, people bracing various bits of wood against the back of doors in tunnels, doors being covered by various flaps or rubber or tarp and just CONSTANT TUNNELS. On top of this (literally lol), the surface topography of Seattle was described in a confusing way, which made me struggle to create a mental picture in my head of where characters were in reference to their surroundings. This took a lot away from the action scenes, which relied heavily on descriptive placing of characters around bits of rubble/behind corners/underneath windows in juxtaposition with their zombie nemeses.
As for other pointless, boring things: what exactly is the point of Rudy? He leads Zeke in circles for a few chapters, disappears, and basically it was all a time killing/plot filling escapade when they could have had more zombies and airships instead. And while we’re talking about wastes of space, can we talk about Zeke? Zeke is a whiny loser! I really couldn’t bring myself to care that much about him when his only character motivation is some nebulous desire to prove himself, and he lets himself get led back and forth across the (actually very small) city by people who obviously want to kill him… like a massive idiot. At the end he suddenly gets a grip and goes all hero on his mum, but I wasn’t buying it. If his budding masculinity really relied so much on discovering The Truth about Maynard and Leviticus for 300 pages, I don’t believe he would have dropped those ideals and been like ‘lol yeah soz mum you were right let’s gtfo’ quite so quickly.
Also, let’s spare a moment for the Boneshaker. Ooooh the Boneshaker. It bore a wee trench under a couple of buildings, and killed what, 7 people? And then it just trundled its merry way back into Leviticus Blue’s basement, and happily parked itself, never to do anything again. OOOOOH SCARY. Big bloody deal. It really seemed kinda overrated both as an object of fear, and as a plot device for the Blight.
(Also – Leviticus Blue? Leviticus Blue? Now THAT is a bangable name if I ever heard one. As is Briar, actually. And Ezekiel. Maybe I should just become a Victorian… American?)
(Wait, shite, what do you even call the American version of the Victorian period that obviously isn’t Victorian because it’s in America???? Crap!! I have no effing idea!!!??? *hits self over the head with history degree*)
Thankfully, despite these annoyances, Boneshaker really picks up steam about 3/4 of the way through, and after that, yes, I admit that it does become pretty rollicking and exciting. There are shoot outs with zombies, excellent steampunk weaponry, SWAKHAMMER MY DARLING DOOZY TOTING DIVING HELMET ANGEL, and a sense of time running out. However, Minnericht’s death was way to easy, and actually somewhat pathetic for a character who’d been such a looming figure of menace throughout the rest of the novel. So that underwhelmed the tension for me slightly.
Now for what I think was definitely the strongest point of this book (aside from the epically original plot premise): the amazing characters. Swakhammer. Ohhhh my precious baby Swakhammer! Him and the rest of the hilarious motley crew of the Maynard pub – babes one and all. Can I get a massive hooray for racial diversity of the cast, including historically accurate acknowledgement of the importance of Chinese immigrants on the West Coast of the USA at this period? It was a great disappointment to me that the masses of sky pirates, so deftly and colourfully drawn, barely got any screen time — I hope they turn up in the other novels in this sequence.
A sentence or two needs to be dedicated to pointing out the fact that female cast of this is book is awesome. Like, AWESOME.
It’s a tragic example of the state of current fantasy that I feel so pathetically grateful for the fact that this novel has more than one strong female who is not a love interest. Because this is still all too often a mutherfudging rarity. Briar, Lucy, and Angeline between them are three extremely badarse ladies who know how to fight and handle themselves, get lots of talky time with eachother, and none of them are sexualised by the narrative or other characters in the slightest. Lucy and her metal arm is just so effing cool; either she or Angeline could easily have a novel to themselves. Better than this — all of the male characters give them immediate and automatic respect as equal humans.
My god. This book is set in the 1800s, and its still doing better than modern day life.
But what Boneshaker really gets right is that it positions women front and centre of the narrative.
- The quest-arc protagonist of the novel? Briar.
- The staid, advice giving resistance leader with whom the protagonist must ally? Lucy.
- The lone anti-hero who fulfils the revenge narrative and thereby saves the day? Angeline.
- CAN I GET A HELL YEE HAH?
As zombie novels go (admittedly I haven’t read all that many), I would rank this well above Generation Dead (LE YAWN) but well below Feed, and my all time favourite zombie novel, Rot and Ruin (
Goodreads Rating: 3.5/5
So what did y’all think of this book??? Let me know! See you lovelies! x