Dreadnought is the fourth story in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series (the previous stories being novels Boneshaker and Clementine and the short story Tanglefoot). The version I “read” was an audiobook by MacMillan Audio, read by Kate Reading.
Nurse Venita “Mercy” Lynch Swackhammer is stationed in a the Confederate Robertson hospital in Virginia during the American Civil War. She gets two sad pieces of news; her husband has been killed on the front, fighting for the Union army and her father is lying in a hospital, dying in Seattle, Washington. Although he is clear across the continent, he is desperate to see her and so Mercy starts the trip of a lifetime, hoping to reach him in time.
With dirigibles, zombies and the terrifying train engine, the eponymous Dreadnought, this book is a lovely romp through the alternate history of the United States that is Priest’s Clockwork century and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
There were a couple of slow moments of exposition that I could have done without, but all in all Priest paints a vivid picture of Civil War America and Mercy Lynch as well as the people she meets. The thing I enjoy most of all about the Clockwork Century novels is the zombies. Zombies as a subject have been nearly done to death and so I really admire Priest’s way to use them in a way that well… isn’t.
The book is an adventure with characters that, for me at least, feel true and a plot that grabs hold and doesn’t let go until Priest’s done.