Dreadnought – The Clockwork Century #2 – Cherie Priest
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.
What a ride! Literally and figuratively speaking. I had been looking forward to getting back in the Steampunk atmosphere, and I was definitely not disappointed with this exhilarating book from Cherie Priest.
Dreadnought centers around a strong woman, a nurse that’s been working at a hospital during the Civil War. The hospital is known for its excellent work and the fact that take even the mortally injured into their care. We meet Mercy in the middle of a workday and we’re immediately pulled into the whirlwind that is the hospital. Wounded men are crammed into the house, newly wounded arrive constantly and not all of them can be saved. Mercy braves through it, efficiently and with admirable skill. But then strangers come bearing bad news: her husband, who had left to fight in the war, has died in a prisoner camp. She’s devastated, but doesn’t let it hold her back for long. Grieving, she keeps doing her job, helping the wounded. And then other news arrives: her father is dying and his last wish is to see her once again. Mercy hasn’t seen her father in years and at first she’s furious he even dares to contact her out of the blue and ask her to travel across the country to see him. But a soldier she’s nursed back to health tells her she’ll regret it if he dies and she never found out why he left them all those years ago. So Mercy leaves on a trip that will take her across the country, making friends with the most unusual people and encountering things that will seem to have come straight out of her nightmares.
The great thing about this series is that each book is a story on its own. They are connected, but only loosely. For example, in this book Mercy’s wounded father is Jeremiah Swakhammer from ‘Boneshaker’, but we don’t see any familiar characters until the very last pages. This book solely describes Mercy’s journey to reach her father. And what a journey it is! A dirigible that’s shot down when they accidently fly over the lines. Mercy then continues to travel west by boat and train and eventually ends up on the Dreadnought, a beast of a train that belongs to the ‘enemy’. But though she is ensured that the Dreadnought is only bringing home fallen soldiers and doing some passenger transport in the meantime, it isn’t long before the Dreadnought is attacked. So what ‘s really in the carriages in the front and back where no one is allowed to come?
‘Dreadnought’ is a book full of characters, but not all of them stick around all that long. They all have their quirks and things that stick out, especially since Mercy is witty and has a definite opinion about the people she meets. This adds some fun and humor to the book and because not all of these characters are important additions, it doesn’t matter that they disappear again rather quickly.
Mercy as a main character was fantastic. I absolutely loved her. She’s so efficient, funny and just a perfect example of strong women in books. I really hope we’ll see more of her in the following books.
The book is a rollercoaster of action, there isn’t a dull moment in there. There’s always something happening that keeps you on the edge of your seat. That’s one of the reasons this books read so easily, you just keep flipping those pages, wanting to know what will happen next and what the next challenge will be. The final action scene is full of zombies, blazing guns, suspense and surprisingly: humanity. Because when you and your enemy are both faced with a more threatening danger, all hostility fades and people pull together to survive.
This second book in ‘The Clockwork Century’ was different from ‘Boneshaker’ but maybe even better. I enjoyed it immensely and am looking forward to continuing this series and discovering which new characters Priest has ready for us and which new adventures they’ll experience. Definitely recommended.