I read The Broken Lands (my thoughts) by Kate Milford a couple months ago and loved it. Loved it so much I nominated it for the Cybils. Loved it so much I immediately bought a copy of The Boneshaker, Milford's previous novel to which The Broken Lands is a prequel. Despite being a companion novel to The Broken Lands and having some of the same characters it is a very different book. And just as awesome.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Natalie Minks loves machines, particularly automata—self operating
mechanical devices, usually powered by clockwork. When Jake Limberleg
and his traveling medicine show arrive in her small Missouri town with a
mysterious vehicle under a tarp and an uncanny ability to make
Natalie’s half-built automaton move, she feels in her gut that something
about this caravan of healers is a bit off. Her uneasiness leads her to
investigate the intricate maze of the medicine show, where she
discovers a horrible truth, and realizes that only she has the power
to set things right.
Natalie is a true heroine. Her character is fleshed out so well that whenever the third person omniscient narration switched to a scene she wasn't in I was jolted hard in to remembering the book wasn't being narrated by her. She has such a strong voice and presence, while not actually telling the story herself. That is a well drawn character. She is smart, curious, gutsy, loyal, and determined. She is also afraid, and at times allows that fear to overwhelm her and step back from doing things she knows she should. Very realistic. She is one of those hero's whose "special", singled out for a purpose. However, Milford handled this in a way that was not tired or cliche. Natalie is being Natalie and, while she knows there is something different about her, she doesn't really realize what or begin to understand it. She does what she does because of the sort of person she is, not because of her abilities. The whole cast of supporting characters is wonderful as well. (Tom. Simon. Miranda. To name but a few.) I loved the characterization of Dr. Limberleg. He is the villain, but there is so much more to him than that. And of course he is not the ultimate villain.
The story here is a combination of folklore, mythology, historical fiction, and magic. I love how Milford combines all of these elements and the things she does with them. This is truly a thrilling-spine-tingling tale. I appreciate that it is creepy without being gory. I love the struggle between good and evil and the hope that the characters find even in their darkest moments.
Kate Milford spins great stories from beginning to end. All of the elements are put together just right. I'm so excited to have discovered her books this year. I am now desperate to read The Kairos Mechanism which takes place in Arcane before this story and is about Natalie too (yay!).