Written by: Cherie Priest
Genre: Steampunk/Alternate History
Pages: 400 (Trade Paperback)
The premise: ganked from BN.com: Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and--if the telegram can be believed--be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.
Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.
What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, 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 they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?
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 off the Dreadnought alive.
Must Have: this is my favorite Cherie Priest book since Dreadful Skin, which I read in 2008. To be fair, I still haven't read Fathom, but I've read everything else, and of the Clockwork Century books, Dreadnought is far and my favorite (and that's saying something, because the other two were enjoyable, but not OMG for me). This is a great adventure, and I've finally fallen in love with Priest's steampunk alternate Civil War Era. Add to that the wonderful heroine of Mercy Lynch, who is just a great, solid character, and I'm sold. Mercy's arc is great, because the loose character arc is about her losing a husband but MAYBE gaining a father, the story itself shows Mercy for the independent woman she really is, a woman who can make her own way in the world, thank you very much, and she'll get along just fine. The story itself thrilled me too, with plenty of action, puzzling though fascinating steampunk devices, and a surprising deepening of an overall story arc. I'm tempted to say this book could be read as a stand-alone, but if you try that and find yourself lost, stop and read Boneshaker first.
Review style: I want to talk about the reasons Mercy Lynch is such a fabulous character, and how she accomplishes it without falling into the "kick-ass heroine" role. I'll also be making connections between previous books in the series (namely, Boneshaker and Clementine), so if you don't want to be spoiled for anything at all, it's best not to read the link below, because I spoil stuff from all the books, including this one. However, if you don't care about spoilers or are already caught up, feel free to read the full review below! As always, comments and discussion are most welcome!
REVIEW: Cherie Priest's DREADNOUGHT
Book club selections @ calico_reaction. Hop on over! We'd love to have you!
October: Feed by Mira Grant
November: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin