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The Boneshaker Hardcover – May 24, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–8—Natalie Minks, 13, likes machines—the way they make sense, the way all the gears and cogs fit together to make something happen. When Dr. Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show stops in at her father's bicycle repair shop because a wagon wheel has fallen off and disappeared, Natalie knows that the man is not meant to fit into the machinery of her life. Her ailing mother has told her stories of bargains made with the Devil, and of besting wickedness by looking it right in the face. Limberleg has a collection of clockwork figures that work without being wound up and never seem to run down. When Natalie begins to have inexplicable visions of the malevolent forces facing Arcane, MO, she isn't convinced that she is equipped to fight the evil at hand. Soon almost everyone is taken in by Limberleg's promises of miraculous healing and snake-oil cures, and it becomes clear to Natalie that she is their only hope of survival. Enhanced by full-page drawings, this intricate story, set in the early 20th century, unfolds with the almost audible click of puzzle pieces coming together. In the gothic tradition of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (S & S, 1962), The Boneshaker will earn itself a place in the annals of stories about children and the struggle between good and evil.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Not to be confused with Cherie Priest's steampunk novel of the same name (though there is just the barest whiff of steampunk here), this historical fantasy uses the classic devil-at-the-crossroads motif as the foundation for an elaborate and intricate gearwork story set in the little town of Arcane, Missouri, in 1913. Milford weaves a lot of strands into this tale. The most prominent involves the town's resident ancient bluesman, who is said to have had a run-in with the devil ages ago, and 13-year-old heroine Natalie, whose latent powers as a sort of seer are awakened when Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show arrives in town. She just knows that there's something more sinister at work than the typical hucksterism of snake-oil salesmen, and the plot soon encompasses everything from the original fall of Lucifer to the Jack tales of classic American folklore. This is not light reading, as readers will have to pay close attention to keep track of the large (but excellently drawn) cast of characters and detailed, but hardly belabored, descriptions of mechanical contraptions, bolstered by an array of fine-lined illustrations that enhance the already vivid and cinematic read. Both impressive and ambitious, Milford's first novel rarely overreaches as it lays out an eerie and atmospheric vision of early-twentieth-century Americana, electrified by supernatural traces and a generously complex look at good, evil, and the wide swath in between. Grades 5-8. --Ian Chipman

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 900L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; First Edition edition (May 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547241879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547241876
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,420,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate is the author of THE BONESHAKER, THE BROKEN LANDS, and GREENGLASS HOUSE (Clarion), as well as their companion novellas THE KAIROS MECHANISM and BLUECROWNE (available at Forthcoming books include THE LEFT-HANDED FATE (Holt, 2015) and THE RACONTEUR'S COMMONPLACE BOOK. She has also written several plays, a couple of screenplays, and an assortment of scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as self-aware ironmongery and how to make saltwater taffy in a haunted kitchen. She is a contributing writer for the Nagspeake Board of Tourism and Culture at and a passionate shutterbug. Originally from Annapolis, she now splits her time between Brooklyn and the Magothy coast. She has a husband called Nathan, a kid called Griffin, and two dogs called Sprocket and Ed. She drinks way too much coffee.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kate Coombs VINE VOICE on March 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Natalie loves machines. She helps her mechanic father in his shop, repairing motorcars and bicycles and trying to build clockwork machines like a small flyer. It's 1914, and Arcane isn't an ordinary small town. The crossroads is a place of power, where the devil once battled an old musician for his soul and lost.

At least, that's the story Natalie's mother tells her, but is it true? As The Boneshaker progresses, we learn not only that the story is true, but that the uncanny Doctor Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show has something to do with demons, as well.

Natalie, whose biggest concern up till now has been her inability to ride the odd bicycle her father has rebuilt for her, the titular boneshaker, now has a whole new set of worries. With her friends, she begins to explore the eerie doctor's medicine show. What she discovers frightens her, but things get even worse when her brother and father decide to bring her ailing mother to the medicine show for treatment.

The author builds her story--and the suspense--beautifully, pulling readers deeper into Natalie's all-too-appropriate fears about Dr. Limberleg and the "paragons" who accompany him. Meanwhile, Natalie's continuing efforts to ride the boneshaker lead us to a final chase scene in which she must ride the bike on a wild night-time journey to save her town and everyone she loves.

Milford gives us fun details like the time Natalie tries to sell a single bee to the town's shopkeeper, along with curious details such as the miniature automata inside Dr. Limberleg's trailer or the way the front left wheel pops off of every vehicle that comes into Arcane through the crossroads. And the medicine show, a kind of carnival, is described nightmarishly well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sunny Sewing Honeybee on March 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Natalie has a mechanically-inclined father who keeps a marvelous bicycle workshop and has just restored a vintage bicycle for her. Too bad she can't figure out how to ride it! Together, they are attempting to bring a little automaton airplane to life. Natalie's mother has a remarkable storytelling ability that brings tales to life. And, so it seems at least, someone has just come to town who can bring things to life . . . without any effort at all.

Milford's unusual setting and characters all work together well to create a magically supernatural feel to the story. Arcane, the town's name, means "mysterious," and the nearby ghost town adds to that feel. The cast of characters in town, both visiting and normal residents, are incredibly complex, including former slave Tom, best known for making a bet with the devil. Natalie discovers that though the town seems very boring on the surface, it has hidden secrets. With the arrival of a "medicine man" and his unusual entourage to the seemingly quiet town, things start becoming really interesting . . . and more than a bit scary.

Why does the medicine man seem to single her out? Why does Natalie seem to be the only person who can tell something shady, and perhaps even downright evil, is going on? Is something really, or is she merely overreacting to things that can be explained? One of the most interesting--and unnerving!--aspects of this book is that you simply don't know one way or the other until about two-thirds of the way through the text. While I don't want to give away any of the plot, since this is the type of story where it's important that things are allowed to be revealed slowly, as a quick warning, there is content that sensitive readers may find overly scary or disturbing.

The beginning is a tad slow since it introduces the characters, rather than really attempting to draw you right in. However, hang in there--from there on, it's a bumpy and exciting ride on Natalie's Chesterlane Eidolon.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pop Bop TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes the editorial reviews that head up these comment sections can be very snarky and dismissive. However, the two reviews that lead off for this book seem to be very much to the point. I was pleased to see that one of them referred to Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes". That is exactly what comes to mind while reading "Boneshaker". Sometimes Bradbury could get carried away and veer toward self-parody in his breathless descriptions, but "Boneshaker" seems more restrained, and builds more steadily and creepily to its conclusion.
The book also introduces a resourceful, sympathetic, aware, aqnd forthright female protagonist. Think of a character like Scout, from "To Kill a Mockingbird", and you'll have a sense of this character, overalls and all.
There are currently an awful lot of books coming out with magic in them, as well as dark versus light type themes, but many of them are sort of manic, with a great deal of exposition about their particular "hook", (alchemy, greek gods, egyptian gods, scandinavian gods, the circles of hell, and so on). Many of them are fun and worthy. But, it seems that "Boneshaker" has a special place in that list mainly because the conflict is built from the ground up on subtle, compelling and satisfying writing, and how nice it is to recommend a book as "well written".
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Format: Hardcover
It seems that no successful book is an island. Or, to put it another way, no successful genre of book. In the children's book world Harry Potter does well and suddenly the market is flooded with wizard tales. Twilight stars vampires, so now you can't walk down the teen aisle in a bookstore without fifty different kind of knock-offs. The Hunger Games sells relatively well and now dystopian fiction is the buzzword of the day. That's all well and good, but to the victor go the spoils of establishing a new genre. There have been varied attempts at this. There was some brief thought that maybe zombies would supplant vampires in teens minds, until it became clear that no matter how you slice it, zombies ain't sexy. What about angels then? No go. Immortals? Pass. Which brings us to the strangest attempt at luring in the middle reader and teen readers of all: Steampunk. Now I don't know how much you know about the Steampunk genre. Think of it this way: A man in Victorian garb wearing a brass plated jet pack. It's a combination of historical settings meeting science fiction concepts. Lots of gears. Steampunk is entirely an adult genre, but recently folks in the publishing industry have been trying to push it on teens and kids with mixed results. Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan is the closest we've come to a Steampunk hit with kids, and even that was only a mild success. Now first time middle grade novelist Kate Milford debuts with The Boneshaker. And finally, kids are about to understand what all the fuss is about.Read more ›
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