Briar Wilkes, daughter of a folk hero and widow of the criminal mastermind responsible for the zombie plague, embarks on a rescue mission when her teenage son Zeke sneaks into the walled city of Seattle.

Briar & Zeke must navigate the underground labyrinth Seattle has become, decide who they can afford to trust, and stay alive long enough to find each other & get back home safely.

Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker came up first when I searched ‘Steampunk’ on Audible. I’ve been trying to read and watch more Steampunk lately, to get a better idea of the genre hopefully some inspiration for The Paradise Swarm.

I remembered hearing very positive feedback about Boneshaker on a couple of podcasts I follow, I really loved the cover, and saw that Wil Wheaton was one of the narrators. That’s pretty much all it takes to make me click ‘Add to basket’, Wil Wheaton is a damn good narrator, and did I mention the cover?

The story is extremely engaging from the beginning, Briar’s very relatable motivation to find her son brings urgency and tension to the narrative, and the cluelessness displayed from Zeke’s point of view only reinforces it. This is the book for you if you want to read dual point of views, deceiving appearances and partly unreliable narrators done right.

There is a great other-wordly dimension to the setting throughout, plus a rich and intriguing lore, supported by airships, gas masks, pirates, mechanical body parts, evil geniuses and zombies galore.

The cast of secondary characters was impressive, and I especially loved the moments when neither the reader nor the character knows who to trust for certain.

I was especially struck by the feeling of imminent danger that was ever present throughout the book from the setting and environment. Most of the action takes place in tunnels underneath the city, as the simple act of going above ground is so dangerous. The idea that walking in the street is such a deadly enterprise particularly inspired me to ramp up the tension and danger in my own writing.

I am now waiting impatiently for my next Audible credit so I can buy the sequel, in which we follow an airship captain.


The Alchemist of Souls

Anne Lyle’s The Alchemist of Souls follows the adventures of Catholic swordsman-turned-spy Maliverny Catlyn through Elizabethan London with a twist.

Mal, his friend Ned Faulkner & cross-dressing seamstress Coby Hendricks find themselves at the heart of political intrigue during the visit to England of the Ambassador of the Skraylings, a fay-like race from the New World.

I’m going to keep plot details at that because it is really too good a book to spoil. Let me just say there is swashbuckling-ness galore, a theatre competition, very cool magic… And it’s set in 16th century London. How much better can it get?

Deep, believable, non-anachronistic portrayal of non-traditional gender roles and minority groups within a well-research historical setting, you say? CHECK. Intricate plotting, lively, fun descriptions and wonderful characterisation, you say? CHECK.

I came across this book some time before it was published, when the author posted her success story on the forums for How To Revise Your Novel, an online course she had completed and I had just started. The story sounded great, the cover art was lovely and supporting a debut author was a nice bonus. I made a note to buy the book when it came out.

I ended up listening to the audiobook which was a great treat, as the voice actor, Michael Page, was phenomenally good. I looked him up and was not surprised to see he also narrated The Three Musketeers and the Illiad and several works by Dickens and Austen.

I don’t actually have anything bad to say about this book, I really, really enjoyed it, to the extent that I went back and listened to some of the story’s climax again because it was so cool. I will most definitely be buying a paper copy (probably hardback as well, otherwise it won’t match the next two which I know I’ll buy right as they come out), and probably get it signed at some Con or other.

Anne’s blog and writing journal feature well-written, insightful and informative posts; she also @replied me on twitter, and I felt all giddy because I’m a dork. But a dork who feels massively inspired by this really nifty debut.