Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

years ago, an inventor’s project went horribly wrong, turning the frontier city
of Seattle, Washington Territory into a choking wasteland of undead.  Thousands died, and thousands more
found themselves the citizens of a new Seattle, the outskirts of a city that
was walled up to keep the poisonous Blight gas out. 
Everything has pretty much settled down to an idea of normal.  Until the past comes creeping into Briar
Wilkes’ life, and she finds herself reliving those terrible momets in order to save the life
of her son, who has gone back into the walled-up city in search of some clue
about what really happened that day sixteen years ago.

Boneshaker is a rollicking adventure,
with a memorable cast of characters. 
The people whom Briar and her son Zeke meet inside the walls of Seattle
all have memorable voices and idiosyncrasies, making this novel not just
another novel with 200 pages of “things happened” and then the big reveal, but
an actual journey for both mother and son, and an exploration of the variety of
human nature.  The society that
Priest has created beneath the poison gas leaves plenty of room for the reader
to imagine other stories happening right alongside Briar’s, and an entire
unknown history inside the walls that no one living outside ever could have

Boneshaker contains a strong mother and
son relationship that is just as much a part of the story as Zeke’s journey to
learn about his past; it isn’t just a way to get both characters inside the
walls and then forgotten about when the adventure starts.  Boneshaker
is a well-plotted story that will keep readers hooked until the end, and
then wanting more.  Though Priest
uses well-known character types to complete her cast, she rounds them out in
ways that make them matter, both to this story and as people in their own
stories.  Throw in airships, fantastic inventions, and a badass one-armed woman, and this is a definitely not a forgettable novel.

Boneshaker is recommended for readers
who enjoy steampunk or American West alt-history.  Those who like adventure science fiction will enjoy the
fantastic technology along with the plot that almost never stops.  Readers who enjoy period science
fiction or fantasy will find much to love in Priest’s well-researched nod to
the Gold Rush and American frontier periods.  This is part of a loosely connected series that continues in
the American Civil War era.


The Quick, by Lauren Owen

Though the streets of London are dark, dismal, and
threatening, Owen has created a vividly illustrated cast of characters in The Quick, a novel that traces its grim
roots to Stoker, Wilde, and other authors of the now-famous Victorian
period.  In a city where the undead
stalk the streets and prey on the unawares, Owen’s creations burn brightly to
the bitter end.  And beyond. 

begins modestly as the story of
Charlotte and James Norbury, young children growing up in a great empty house
in Yorkshire with a rotating cast of governesses and servants to raise them
while their father is in London on business.  He returns to Askew Hall only in time to pass away, and for
his sister to take over management of the estate.  The Quick is a
novel in three parts, and for some readers it may feel a bit too disjointed,
but is worth the effort to meet the many compelling personalities in and about
London.  Many years pass and
readers are introduced to James as a young man, finishing at Oxford, going to
live in London to be a writer, and taking an apartment with another young man,
Christopher Page.  And things
spiral deeper and deeper into the dark side of London.

spins her tale of undead existing among the living with care, hiding away her
secrets like the painting hung behind a door at the top of the stairs,
parceling out information in hints that will keep the reader interested even
over the course of the novel’s 500-plus pages.  In revelation after revelation, Owen builds her case for the
undead like Sherlock Holmes himself—when you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.  When, after the death of their aunt, Charlotte
can’t get in touch with James, she travels to London and instead finds quite a
different situation than she’d expected, and must make decisions she’d never
thought possible. 

The Quick is not just another novel
about vampires, but is a long exploration of the nature of desire: how it can
influence people in ways they could never have anticipated.  Readers of classic English literature
will enjoy the deft touch Owen shows when developing the mood and atmosphere of
her novel and its homage to Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker.  Those who enjoy seeing an idea
developed from multiple points of view, with care paid to how the same
situation can be viewed differently depending one’s relation to it, will be
attracted to the individuals of the story and how they move through the
plot.  Even though she hides Charlotte
away for nearly a third of the novel, Owen builds out her cast of characters
with strongly developed and interesting women, refreshing in a type of story
generally dominated by men. Both the women and men are drawn to the center of
the plot, forced to rely on their wits and talents to survive.  The final third of the novel is perhaps
drawn out more than necessary, but The
is still an engrossing and compelling read.