This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

22 March, 2012

REVIEW: DREADNOUGHT

Cover art: Jon Foster
Cover design: Jamie Stafford-Hill

DREADNOUGHT
A CLOCKWORK CENTURY NOVEL/
CLOCKWORK CENTURY BOOK 2
BY
CHERIE PRIEST

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2578-5
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tor
Published: 28 September 2010


On the cover:

Mercy Lynch is working at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when she learns that her husband has died in a POW camp and her estranged father is gravely injured and wishes to see her. With no good reason to stay in Virginia, Mercy sets out to see her father in Seattle.
   But crossing the country is no small task; it's a harrowing adventure through war-torn border states by dirigible, rail, and the Mississippi River. And once Mercy arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Lacking options and running out of money, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.
   What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can't imagine why it's meeting such resistance. Perhaps it has something to do with the mysterious cargo in the second and last train cars?
   Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she'll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it of the Dreadnought alive.

   This novel is set shortly after the events in Boneshaker. It is not however set in Seattle, and the main character here, Mercy Lynch, was not in the first book. She is however related to the events of the first book in a way that will become clear to the reader pretty early on.
   It's not exactly common to move the location and change the characters in the middle of a series, and some people may be disappointed by not having another novel with the characters they grew to love in the last volume. I didn't find it a problem at all, instead I found it one of the strengths of the book.
   Last time around we had some references to other events in Priest's Alternate History, and this time we get to go closer to them and find out more about how the rest of the USA is affected by this alternative timeline. I am a fan of Alternate History and I must say that Priest has managed to expand on that part of the novel here, and she does it very well. Now that there is more information of the larger world of The Clockwork Century, it feels even more alive and realistic. This would actually work without the Steampunk and supernatural element. And because of that I think Alternative History fans would find this novel very interesting.

   The Steampunk elements of the novel really stand out. Especially one set of machines that we encounter early on are absolutely marvelously "mad professor" bonkers. And by bonkers I mean totally jawdroppingly cool. They are not alone, there are dirigibles, and the titular Dreadnought that is also a great invention fitting to an age of steam.
   What interested me is that there are mentions of machines being run on diesel here. It seems to be a very natural progression in the technology, something that strengthens the believability of the world in my eyes.

   Mercy Lynch is our "guide" through the world Priest has created, it is through her that we experience the events in Dreadnought. She is a great character to follow, and we quickly learn enough about her that we can see get a good understanding of who she is. As we follow her journey we get even more insights into her, she comes off as both interesting and a realistic product of the world she inhabits.
   There are several other characters in the supporting cast that we also get a more than a brief insight into. And Priest manages to make them all interesting, the whole ensemble is put together in such a way that they enhance the story. Priest is very good at making the characters feel like people who happen to be caught up in the events and they do not come off as being constructed to advance the story.

   The story takes us on a journey across the continent from west to east. It has a certain road trip feeling to it but at the same time we see developments of what seems to be an over arcing theme that connects the Clockwork Century novels.
   There is a lot of action in this story, it never gets boring. Of course there are quiet patches, but these are put into good use to make the plot come more alive. The central plot is Mercy's journey across America, a journey we know where is supposed to end. But there is also a hidden purpose to the train journey Mercy becomes a part of, one that becomes a mystery to be solved by her and by extension the reader.
   I really liked the atmosphere of the novel, the mystery and the physical journey combined to create a tension that drove me to read on. Although the mystery was not that hard to figure out, it did have a huge part in making the plot to work much better. The characters actions were made much more plausible by them being unaware of the greater purpose of the journey. And there were parts of what was going on that was unexpected to me and made the suspense greater.

   In total this was a great read, the parts came together seamlessly to make a whole that was both interesting and exciting. The action and suspense makes it a quick read, and the underlying framework of the world combined with well realised characters makes it a very interesting novel. It works well as a standalone novel, but having read Boneshaker will give it a few more layers that strengthens it.
   The Steampunk elements will appeal to the fans of that genre, and the Alternate History of the US Civil War will be satisfying to fans of that genre. And anyone who likes action and adventure set in the past should give this novel a try.

Review: Boneshaker

Links: Cherie Priest  Tor/Forge  Tor/Forge Blog

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