I must admit, at the start, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Boneshaker, the first book in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series. I really wanted to like it – after all, the premise was unique, the cover phenomenal (just look at it!) – and I didn’t much mind Priest’s slow, deliberate pacing either. But for me, the story kind of meandered and didn’t go anywhere and also got kind of confusing toward the end. I put down the book without much desire to buy any more of the Clockwork books. Mind you, I was very tempted, though, as the premises and covers of the series did their best to lure me in!
But when Priest released Maplecroft, the first of her new alt-reality Gothic series featuring real-life notorious alleged axe murderer Lizzie Borden, I was hooked. Lovecraftian Gothic and Lizzie Borden, how could I resist? I really enjoyed Maplecroft and that drove me to plunge back ingot he Clockwork series, starting with the second book, Dreadnought.
I really, really love Dreadnought. It follows the story of Nurse Mercy Lynch as she attempts to travel across Civil War America to reach her long-lost ill father. But of course, it’s not just typical Civil War America, it’s Clockwork Century Civil War America, which means travel by dirigible, giant mechanised ‘Walker’ robots, adventures in an enormous steam-powered war train (the titular Dreadnought), and rumours of mysterious zombie-like creatures. What’s there not to like?
Dreadnought is one of those really fun adventure stories which gives you a real sense of the setting and the people in it. I can just imagine this book being developed into a movie, directed by Quentin Tarantino, no less. In my opinion, it’s Cherie Priest’s best book and led me to devour the rest of her Clockwork series. It’s even led me to re-read Boneshaker. I’ve developed a new appreciation for Boneshaker, though I still don’t love it as much as I do, say, Dreadnought or Maplecroft. And it’s left me a major fan of Cherie Priest and her American Gothic/steampunk aesthetic. More, please!