Dreadnought (Clockwork Century #3) by Cherie Priest
Publisher: Tor/Sept. 2010
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 theDreadnought. 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.
Mercy Lynch is working as a war nurse in Virginia when she gets two instances of bad news in a couple of days. The first is that her husband (who she only knew a short time before he went off to war), has been killed, and the second is that her father (who left when she was very young) is gravely ill and is asking for her. She decides, against all of her better instincts, to make the journey to Washington to visit the father she never knew, and possibly get answers about why he left. Eventually she boards a train, attached to which is a war machine called the Dreadnought. Aboard the train with her are soldiers, a Texas Ranger, Mexican investigators, and plenty of intrigue. The train is carrying more than just passengers, and Mercy is determined to find out just what is causing bushwackers and other unsavory types’ increasingly alarming interest in the cargo. Then there are the zombies…
I have to admit, I adored Boneshaker (Clockwork Century #1), but had a little trouble getting into Clementine (Clockwork #2), so I decided to move on to Dreadnought (yeah, I know…mutter, mutter). First and foremost, I enjoyed Mercy Lynch. She’s tough. She’s resourceful. Plus, she doesn’t mind uttering a few curse words (*gasp*) every now and then! I mean, she’s a war nurse for goodness sakes! She’s pretty much seen it all and really doesn’t take nonsense from anyone. Dreadnought chronicles her cross country adventure, starting with a doomed airship ride to a train ride from hell (including some unthinkable cargo.) A group of Mexicans (a really, really large group) has gone missing, and this is just one of the mysteries that will be explored in this book. We get intrigue, war machines, battlefield excitement, gold!!, and one awesome heroine that you’ll love to root for. I did mention the zombies too, right? Ms. Priest’s alternate history is always a fun place to visit, and even though I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Boneshaker, it’s still well worth your time (and money-try to pick up a physical copy if you can, it’s gorjus.) If you enjoy Civil War intrigue, steampunk flare, and plenty of adventure, you’ll love Dreadnought!