is a steampunk novel that promises much but unfortunately proves to be rather flaccid. The novel droops, when it should rise to a crescendo and the final revelation proves to be delivered in a way that is anticlimactic. Yet, that said, this YA steampunk still has several positives that place it a step, stylistically, above other competitors.
Cherie Priest's novel centres around an accident triggered by inventor Leviticus Blue which released a poisonous gas into a fictionalised Seattle. Blue's machine, The Boneshaker, delves too deep and finds this fictional material beneath the earth. This gas, known as The Blight, kills all who inhale it and transforms their carcasses into roaming zombies. This transforms Seattle into a ghost city, forcing its inhabitants to leave. Years later the novel opens with an introduction to Briar Wilkes, a woman connected to the past Boneshaker incident. She is a single mother, living with her son Ezekial (Zeke) Wilkes. Zeke decides that he has had enough of living with his mother's refusal to talk about the past and ventures back into zombie and Blight infested Seattle, forcing his mother to follow and creating a few revelations about what happened in that city.
The depth of this novel consists of being able to perceive that this is a tale about human corruption. It is a novel which observes how lust and greed are pervasive and cause vast destruction. In the case of this story, the destruction of Seattle. It is also, in some regards, a novel about human redemption, challenging whether an individual can ever be redeemed when they have made a major life-destroying mistake. In the case of this novel redemption must be found for Leviticus Blue and for Briar Wilkes. Redemption being shown through how Briar sets off, lovingly, to look for her son.
The prose used by Cherie Priest is fascinating. She appears to understand how to weave together storytelling and description, showing rather than telling. She weaves her description into the story so that rather than telling the reader that a man was red she shows us that he was wearing red because it was important to the story or to understanding his character. In this sense, of all YA novels I've read, I believe that this novel has the greatest sense of understanding how to wield the power of description. Yet to combat that Priest appears to lack a proper understanding of pacing, leaving areas of her novel flat and unappealing when they should have energy and vigour.
On the whole a promising novel yet one that leaves the reader feeling like more could have been attempted with the premise. Perhaps the sequel in the series will be better suited to fulfilling the entire potential of this alternate world. There have been many other series which have done so.