04 August 2010

Book Review: The Boneshaker

Title:  The Boneshaker
Author:  Kate Milford
Publisher:  Clarion Books
Release Date:  24 May 2010
Date Finished: 2 August 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, YA Reading Challenge, Hogwarts Reading Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
When Dr. Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show comes to Arcane, Natalie quickly realizes all is not as it appears.  Long fascinated with automata, Natalie still is horrified by Limberleg's perpetual motion automata because she knows perpetual motion is not possible, at least not in the world she knows.  But Natalie and the people of Arcane have a lot to learn about the strangeness of reality.

A Bit of a Ramble
The Boneshaker is clearly a middle grade fiction story.  The plot is slow moving, almost to the point of being a bit boring for me. While I'm used to stories where the fight between good and evil is set up in the first third, the hero/heroine comes to terms with his/her role in the second third, and the fight and resolution finish out the book, The Boneshaker seemed to tarry too long in the set up.  The truth of the situation, of who the players are, is not revealed until well in to the final third of the book, and the climax and resolution are tightly packed in the last few chapters of the book.  I just felt like it took too long to get to the good stuff.

I've heard the book described as historical fiction and as steampunk.  Speaking to historical fiction, the story is set in 1913....but I never felt like a true atmosphere was created. I suppose the steampunk label is referring to the automata, but I'm not sure that the inclusion of mechanical creations is enough to warrant a steampunk classification.  Then again, I am most definitely not an expert on the subject.

One thing I did find interesting and honestly a bit cheesy is the amazingly direct reference to The Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band in the beginning of the novel.  The plot begins with the crossroads which exist just down the road from Arcane.  And as I'm sure we all know, crossroads are where deals with the Devil are made.  When a guitar player stops at the crossroads, the Devil challenges him to a guitar-playing duel (what's wrong with the fiddle  may I ask?).  Even the details of the dual itself are Daniels' song all the way.

After reading some other reviews, I am pretty sure that I am in the minority here.  Most seem to have really enjoyed the story.  This, of course, got me wondering why I wasn't as thrilled with it.  Immediately a possible answer popped into my head.  The Boneshaker is middle grade fiction, and that is not my favorite age grouping. If you enjoy this age range, I would hazard a guess that The Boneshaker is a pretty solid read; if like me you need a bit more depth and a bit more maturity in content, I would skip it.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

Kids Lit; TheHappyNappyBookseller; Book Aunt;

And for your listening pleasure, The Devil Went Down to Georgia:


  1. OK LOL. I was going to ask you if this was a new cover but then I started laughing at The Devil Went Down To Georgia reference...... and then video...... :D

  2. Hm, doesn't sound quite like my kind of book. I thought your The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind post was going up today??

  3. Middle grade books are hard for me too. I loved When The Mountain Meets the Moon, but I think you are right about the depth factor. They usually leave me wanting a little bit more.

  4. Sheila - Gotta love Mr. Daniels!

    Amanda - I was totally off a day; that post is tomorrow. I was ahead of myself yesterday, thought it was Thursday already.

    Nicole - I think I can only go to the upper-middle-grade like Percy Jackson or Cirque du Freak, anything below that is just a bit much, well actually a bit too little.

  5. Ah, I see. I thought today was Thursday too. :D

  6. A middle grade has to really sparkle for me to enjoy it these days. I'm kind of off them at the moment.

  7. Good review! Everytime I hear that song I think of the summer Olympics in Atlanta when that gymnast used the song for her floor routine. She was a little tiny thing, and threw herself around like I don't know what!
    Middel grade books can be boring but I would have thought this would have been a bit more exciting. Oh well :)

    Like the background change too!

  8. You are so dang good at this. I follow more than a few book review sites, and there is just something about your style. I'd read anything you posted on...

  9. Amanda - Lol! Well we're doing good aren't we?

    Lenore - I like that way of phrasing it: they have to "sparkle".

    Jenny Girl - haha! I forgot about that. And I don't know if anyone should take my word for it because I am clearly in the minority on this; many of the reviews I've read have been really positive.

    Alexandra - Awww, thank you. That is so nice of you to say.

  10. Sorry this wasn't as good as you were hoping. The steampunk elements do appeal to me, but I'm not about to run out and get it :P

  11. New here, but really enjoy the way you've organized your site. It's clean and straightforward. Very nice. By the way, what's a steampunk?

  12. Ana - I'd say if you are looking for steampunk, you should read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest instead of this Boneshaker. I hear it's excellent and much more honest-to-goodness steampunk than this one is.

    Bridgette - Steampunk is a sub-genre of literature that combines the Victorian culture with futurism. It's a really fun type of book, so you should definitely check it out! Thanks for stopping by!

  13. I think I'll skip this one -- maybe my son and I will give the other Boneshaker a go. After reading Leviathan with James, and hearing him proclaim that book was "Bad Ass!", I definitely want to look for more Steampunk.

  14. Victorian culture with futurism? I've got to read one! Too fun.

  15. Stephanie - I'm planning on reading the other Boneshaker too as it sounds fantastic. And I still have to read Leviathan, especially now as I tend to really like books that boys call bad ass.

    Bridgette - Steampunk is definitely a wonderful genre, so I recommend getting one. Just not necessarily this one. :)


Talk to me baby!