Vinita "Mercy" Swakhammer Lynch is a Confederate nurse 20 years into the Civil War. Shortly after learning of her Yankee husband's death she receives a letter from the Seattle Sheriff telling her her daddy is sick and asking for her. Mercy hasn't seen her dad since he packed up and left when she was a little girl, but she decides to make the cross-country trek to see him, soon getting caught up in adventure and mystery. What is the drug the men call "sap" and what are it's ultimate effects? How did a large group of Mexicans end up in Utah and are they really eating people? What is in the mystery cars on the train that require a Yankee regiment and the most dreaded Yankee war engine in the country to guard them?
I've never really read steampunk before, unless you count Verne and Wells, so when I learned of a first-come, first-served contest by TOR to get a copy, I entered, knowing almost nothing about it other than "steampunk". I was a bit disappointed, therefore, when I discovered it was also an alternate history and zombie novel; two "genres" that have never been favorites. Zombies in particular give me pause after what they did to Jane Austen. However, I ended up pleasantly surprised.
Though the beginning (100-150 pages) dragged a bit for my tastes, once Mercy was on the train I was captivated. The action was perfectly paced and the mystery given just enough build; and while the book certainly subscribes to a variety of genres, all are done in a way that the book never really feels like a zombie-book, or an alternate history, or even steampunk. Dreadnought is about Mercy Lynch and her journey with the plot devices being secondary.
It turns out, when done well, I do like all these genres. I will certainly be seeking out other Cherie Priest novels in the future.
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