Some books are fun and some are refined works of art. This is fun. It is dystopian historical revisionism of the civil war with steampunk airships, zombies, and a mom coming for her son. I listened to the audio version of the book narrated by Will Wheaton and Kate Reading. I’m not 100% sure it’s fine lit, but it was performed well and I enjoyed it. I did not read any portion of it and can not compare the experience. This may have altered my perception of the book for the good – Wheaton and Reading can do a lot for any book.
Briar Wilkes is defined by being the daughter of Maynard – a dead symbol of law, and wife of Leviticus Blue – the man who devastated Seattle. His invention, the Boneshaker, brought the blight that contaminated a city’s population. To breathe it in transforms a person into living dead. This story starts years after Seattle has been sealed off. She lives outside the tainted city, protected by the walls, raising her teenage son Ezekial. With her reputation she was lucky to get a job at the Industrial Plant. They barely get by. She isn’t the mother she wishes she could be, working all the time, and her son runs with a criminal element that respects the Maynard blood in his veins. Ezekial sneaks into the Seattle. He wants to prove his dad is the victim of slander, but at sixteen the rumors of what lies behind the walls is nothing compared to what he finds. Briar figures out what he has done. She regrets not telling him of her past and his origins, but she doesn’t have time for lamentations. So, she picks up her gun, and enters the city with the help of those who respect Maynard’s law.
More than a coming of age story for Briar’s son, Ezekial, this is a story of Briar. Who she was and is have been determined by her fathers and husbands decisions. This is not strange for a woman of civil war times. She rejected her position as the daughter of a lawman she viewed as a tyrant, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t take the skills he taught her with her. In reaction she turned to a man of learning, an inventor, but his decisions confined her son, her, and the Northwest to disaster. She accepted the burden and guilt placed upon her. This story shows her taking control of her life outside how others see her. In tracking her son she enters the city. It is dangerous, close to lawless, and free of societal expectations. She becomes her own person and her son gets to see his mother as strong and capable.
The world building could be better developed. I appreciate detail and would have liked more description of the cities warren of tunnels. Being historical revisionism Priest could have delved much further into the war. It was secondary to the story of Seattle, little more than a backdrop, but there are good bones here. It is a series and I hope the second book fleshes out the blighted Seattle, and why Priest decided to place it in the U.S civil war. I understand that adding zombies and steampunk machinery may seem a bit much. It sounds like it is catering to every current trend, but I believe Priest was able to tie it together. In a first book you need to establish the story and include enough action to hook an audience. Priest does that. There is so much potential. To really be able to claim this as steampunk or revisionism there will have to be stronger science and historical elements in the second book. I’m hoping she does it.
I recommend you listen to the audio version of this. In seeing reviews by others I respect, who read it, I had a better experience.