Monday, October 13, 2014

MMGM: The Boneshaker, by Kate Milford

Have you heard the song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia?" If not, go listen to it here.

Have you read Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes? If not, October is the perfect month to rectify that grave omission! It's such a wonderful October book.

Now imagine a cross between that song and that novel.

And then throw out whatever you imagined because Kate Milford did it even better.

The Boneshaker is delicious on so many levels. The ghost town at the crossroads. The dusty little community with secrets. The creaky old carnival rolling into town. Such an evocative setting, and evoked with such loving detail!

Then there are the characters: Old Tom Guyot, who can play his guitar like nothing and nobody and who has a story about that crossroads. Inexplicable Simon Coffrett living alone in his mansion on the hill. Grandiose Dr. Limberleg with his wild red hair and his suspicious glares and his increasing desperation.

And Natalie herself, the odd, determined heroine who senses something not right about Dr. Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show. She pokes her nose in where it isn't wanted until she finds out far more than is safe about what's really going on.

So much to love about this book! Natalie's beautiful bright red Chesterlane Eidolon, fastest bicycle in the world, built just for her by her father, that to her endless shame she hasn't figured out how to ride. The stories Natalie's mother spins for her, the magic of stories that Natalie begins to figure out for herself. Natalie's prickly relationship with her friend Miranda. Terrible moral dilemmas. The hints of a more complex mythology, only just touched upon in this book. (Now I want to read The Broken Lands and the two Arcana books, all set in the same world.)

Oh, and great illustrations.

My daughter just told me she's making a masala-spiced turkey with rice stuffing and butter chicken gravy (butter chicken gravy???). I wish I could go to Ottawa and try some! I imagine that meal would make a good metaphor for The Boneshaker: complex flavours redolent of tradition but with a spicy twist.

I first heard of The Boneshaker from the Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday crew over at Shannon Messenger's blog. You can be sure to find more wonderful recommendations there every Monday.


  1. Wow, this sounds fantastic and the cover captured my attention right away. I'm going to add it to my somewhat lengthy list of books to read, but may have to add it closer to the top. Thanks for sharing such an intriguing story.

  2. While I love the tune, Ray Bradbury's book totally creeps me out.... still, I'm open to checking out the Boneshaker.

    1. Have you read Bradbury? Don't let the description make you think it's horror or anything. It's got darkness in it, but it's lyrical, nostalgic, affirming, quite beautiful.

  3. Oh, I LOVED this book! I read it years ago and still have the hardcover. I love your description of it, especially using the word "delicious". I haven't read her other books, so I'll have to get on that. Happy October!

  4. My high school marching band did Devil Went Down to Georgia because we had TWO really good violinists in the orchestra! It was a hoot. Have you nominated for the Cybils awards or thought about giving us a shout out? I'd love to see more nominations in all of the categories!

  5. I will have to find time to read this book. It sounds creepily fun. Thanks for the review.

  6. I read this a couple of years ago and so enjoyed it! I think the comparison to SOMETHING WICKED is very apt. I have Milford's latest in my TBR stack. I am expecting great things because BONESHAKER was so well done.

  7. Milford is such a talented writer and can do so many things. I loved this book, but I like The Broken Lands just a little bit more.