The Boneshaker. Kate Milford. 2010. May 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 372 pages.
Strange things can happen at a crossroads. It might look like nothing but a place where two dusty roads meet, but a crossroads can be something more. A crossroads can be something special, a compass with arms reaching to places you might never find the way to again; places that might exist, or might have existed once, or might exist someday, depending on whether or not you decide to look for them.
But whatever else it might be, a crossroads is a place where you choose.
I have now read Kate Milford's The Boneshaker three times. (The first time was in July 2010, the second in December 2010). I can now truly say that this is indeed one of my favorite, favorite historical fantasy novels. Not that it's fully, completely fantasy. It is set in the real world, in a small American town in 1913. And many details do feel authentic for the time period. But. There are characters that have had showdowns with the devil himself. (Think The Devil Went Down To Georgia.) And there is something more--much more--to the traveling carnival that has come to town.
Almost everything from my original review still rings true:
Read this book. Now. Why? Because this book is so very, very good. It's one of those books where the moment you finish it, you want to start it all over again. You don't want it to be over. You want to keep experiencing it.
What did I love about this book? The characters, the story, the storytelling, the setting, the atmosphere, the descriptions. It was such an amazing blend of history, mystery, and fantasy. The Boneshaker is set in 1913, in Arcane, Missouri. This is a town that for whatever reason makes travelers uneasy. It's not a place most would stop and see for fun, for pleasure. Perhaps it's a little too close for comfort to the Old Village, the first settlement of the crossroads that was abandoned several generations before the novel opens. So while Arcane may not seem like much--at least to the outsider--it is home to our heroine, Natalie Minks. She's very smart, very curious. She likes to know how things work. She's fascinated by machines. And she loves spending time with her father who is a mechanic--a bicycle mechanic mostly, though he fixes anything with wheels for the most part.
Arcane doesn't see many strangers. But one day a stranger shows up in town--his wheel broke, you see--and this stranger is none other than Dr. Jake Limberleg. He has a medicine show. The full name is Dr. Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show. And while he's waiting for his wheel to be fixed--so he can go on his way, Arcane was not a planned stop by any means--he decides to go ahead and open up his show, his fair. There are a handful of people in the community who are skeptical about this man and his team of 'doctors' of 'experts.' Among these is Natalie. She may be the cleverest one of them all. She may be the only one able to solve this mystery. But can she do it in time?
The Boneshaker is so compelling. It had me from hello. The characters, the storytelling, the writing, I thought all of it was so well done. Kate Milford made me care about these characters, and she kept me hooked from start to finish.
Read The Boneshaker
- If you like historical fiction, historical fantasy, historical mysteries
- If you like stories with a bit of supernatural to them--not TOO much, just enough and no more
- If you like strong heroines that are on their way to developing their full potential (Loved her resourcefulness, her curiosity, her courage, her determination)
- If you love stories with well-developed, fascinating characters
- If you love stories with atmosphere, with a strong setting,
- If you love stories with mysteriously creepy traveling carnivals or medicine shows
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews