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Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
4.5
Book Name: Dreadnought
Author: Cherie Priest
Publisher(s): Tor/Seven Seas
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Steampunk
Release Date: September 28, 2010

As is my habit, when I enjoy a book I go looking for more by the same author. Such was the case when I picked up Dreadnought.

The story is about Vinita Lynch (also called Mercy) as she travels across most of North America to see her dying father one last time. However, the US Civil war has been dragging on between the North and the South. Texas is an independent republic. Naturally, this makes long distance travel rather interesting for a Confederate nurse, whose husband fought for the North. And who hasn’t seen or heard from her father out in the Western Territories for a decade until now.

I loved this book. I liked the travel aspect during a time of crisis to better illustrate the differences between the various factions and how suspicious of each other they all were. It seemed a bit similar to Murder on the Orient Express with all the intrigue regarding everyone’s motives and more interestingly, what was actually on the first and last cars of the train. As far as world building went, I thought it a nice way to sketch out broader conflicts through individuals and the reactions of other people to them. The setup looks like one that stands just on the brink of a world war sprouting off the American Civil War. Particularly if said civil war is using both steam and diesel technology to power its machinery.

Dreadnought is peripherally related to the previous novel, Boneshaker, but more in that they take place in a sequential time frame and there are a few characters slightly shared between them. Where Boneshaker is primarily focused on a single location and the inhabitants therein, the wider political picture is of greater narrative importance in Dreadnought, particularly in how the characters see and interact with each other. The wide geographic expanse that the book covers through that narrative made it an excellent platform for social world building. I liked the expansion and the episodic nature of the storytelling. Sometimes one gets the impression that everything must come as a trilogy, which is something of a pain in the rear when one would like a complete story between the pages of one book.

Regarding the politics, it was really interesting to see how Mercy’s profession as a nurse trumped any and all questions about her politics for a lot of the other characters. In addition, the profession and state/country of origin first impression dynamics were pretty pronounced. Nearly all of the characters had a point in time where they had to revise a first impression, a revelation that extended to more than a few of my own first impressions of the characters. I loved how the passengers on the train blossomed for better or for worse as the narrative moved.

The book reads primarily like a travelogue where a lot of crap happens on the way. In rare quiet moments, Mercy muses about the people around her, where she’s going and why… all the stuff one thinks of when traveling alone and stuck on a bus or a train for an extended period of time. In that context, Mercy made sense to me. The journey across the country seems very much like an attempt to unwind and recover from looking at the really messy, ugly and painful side of a war that’s been going on for most of a generation in the narrative universe. Mercy seemed very much the product of her time, a little lost yet polite when nothing in particular was going on, practical and focused when the situation becomes dire. In short, my great grandmothers would approve of her as heartily as I do.

This novel is entirely different from the previous and yet I still love it. I love how the politics are integrated into the story. I love how it discreetly bridges the gap between the books. I enjoyed the means of travel to further flesh out Mercy’s world and I cannot wait to get my hands on Cherie Priest’s next steampunk book.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
Dreadnought by Cherie Priest, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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