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The Boneshaker

(Arcana #2)

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,658 ratings  ·  349 reviews
Thirteen year-old Natalie Minks loves machines, particularly automata — self-operating mechanical devices, usually powered by clockwork. When Jake Limberleg and his travelling 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 t ...more
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published May 24th 2010 by Clarion Books
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Randy Hard to say, depending on specifically what you mean by "flavor/tone." I don't get anything especially Missourian, but this is also set 100 years ago …moreHard to say, depending on specifically what you mean by "flavor/tone." I don't get anything especially Missourian, but this is also set 100 years ago in a fantasy version of Missouri, so...(less)

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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  1,658 ratings  ·  349 reviews

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Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2006-2010, ebooks, fantasy, ya
DAMN YOU YA NOVELS!! Why do you so often strut around flashing such delicious, mouth-watering premises only to end up tasting like rice cakes dipped in peanut butter and leaving me feeling unsatiated, frustrated...and very, very thirsty. I certainly don't mean all YA novels as there are quite a few that have left my literary gluttony stuffed and smiling (you good ones know who you are). This story, however, just another under-delivering promise tease.

Now, this tale isn't terrible, but it had su
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 establishin ...more
Feb 22, 2010 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Look, there is the possibility--the very, very slight possibility--that I might be biased. I doubt it, but I felt full disclosure was in order here.
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Oh so terribly creepy, The Boneshaker is a wonderfully creative book. I genuinely can't quite work out how it wound up (intentional mechanical pun) so fantastic, as all the ingredients sound reasonably generic...


There's the high-spirited young girl, more comfortable in overalls than a dress. There's the eerie-sneaky travelling carnival (well, sort of carnival), that may or may not contain an unspeakable evil. There's a set of rather lovely little black and white illustrations, in case we can't p
A fun, fantastical YA story about standing your ground especially when you are at a crossroads, and a strong analytical girl who needs to be brave enough to help the people she loves.

Thirteen year old Natalie Minks loves bicycles, clockwork gadgets, solving puzzles and listening to her mother's endless stories about their town. Growing up in rural Missouri in 1913, she lives near a major crossroads with the ruins of the former town left perplexingly in-tact down the road. One da
Apr 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have put off reviewing The Boneshaker for some time now because it leaves me feeling absolutely inadequate to the task. It is quite possibly one of the best books I have ever read.

The Boneshaker is the story of Natalie Minks, a young tomboy with a passionate love of all things mechanical. Few things give her more pleasure than tinkering with her father on their automata, unless it is perhaps her red Chesterlane, a beautiful boneshaker of a bicycle he built for her. Except that she cannot ride
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Forget vampires, talking animals, and mythology tropes, Kate Milford offers a fantasy tale that brings back the age old battle between mankind and the Devil-- the battle for our souls.

Belles Middle Grade Library
Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I thought Greenglass House was great, but man. This blew me away! & this was her DEBUT novel!! I read the last 75% in one sitting-not a small book either! It gave my steampunk heart everything it needed to keep ticking..So beautifully written. Again, the authors research & time really came through in the story. For example:Patent medicines, & the crazy things people did & believed in the late 1800s-early 1900s..wowza. Also, Jamaica ginger-A 19th-century patent medicine, & a large number of users ...more
Sandra Stiles
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Just received the book yesterday. Yea!
I just went back to school and found the book in my box. I am glad I had the opportunity to read and review it. This story is set in 1913 and the main character is 13 year old tomboy Natalie Minks from Arcane, Missouri. She likes all things mechanical and helps her father. When she isn't helping him she listens to her mother who is a master story teller. Things plug along smoothly until the traveling medicine show comes to town. At this point I have to say t
Dan Rogers
Feb 25, 2011 marked it as abandoned
One of the most difficult things I've ever had to do as a reader is to give myself permission to abandon a book. As a child I would always force myself to finish a book once I had started it, no matter how badly I disliked it. Not so anymore. I have finally gotten to the point where I firmly believe, and I tell my students this all the time, there are too many goods books out there waiting to be read to spend your time finishing a book you just don't like. This book is one of those books. I have ...more
Jenn Estepp
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
eh, i'm just not seeing what everyone else seems to be seeing in this book. it's not steampunk, not bradbury-esque (it takes more than a carnival and a bit of evil to call up mr. ray), and it's not filled with writing i feel is remarkable.

perhaps i am contrary. perhaps you will like it.

eta: i just read a bunch of blog posts on this book. they were all pretty glowing. so maybe this is my "when you reach me" of the year - the book everyone loves but me, which will probably go on to pick up a crazy
A dark, creepy, steampunk-esque, meet-the-devil-at-the-crossroads story that is so delightfully well crafted that I want everyone to read it. It will really shine for readers who can generate strong pictures in their minds as they read.

School Library Journal recommends it for 6th through 8th graders, but in a pinch, I'd give it to younger readers who like dark, creepy, well crafted books.
Kara Babcock
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Sometimes we get so caught up in the swells of epic fantasy that it’s nice to take a break and come back down to earth with something a little more folk fantasy. The Boneshaker is set in 1914, in a Missouri town just near a crossroads—and we all know what happens there. Kate Milford, along with some fantastic illustrations by Andrea Offermann, spins us a yarn about a travelling medicine show, deals with the Devil, and the consequences of paving a road with good intentions.

Natalie Minks is 13 yea
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
First sentence: Strange things can happen at a crossroads.

Premise/plot: Natalie Minks stars in Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker. This one is set in a small town in Missouri in 1913. It definitely has a historical feel to it, but, it also has a supernatural gothic element to it. A battle between good and evil is coming to this town located near a won’t be the first or last. Natalie, our heroine, finds herself front and center for the action. Her curiosity and skepticism may just sav
Oct 26, 2010 rated it liked it
So... I liked, didn't love this book. (3-4 stars.) I think some of it is my own fault. I had trouble keeping some of the secondary characters straight, and this made the last third very confusing; if I'd read more carefully, maybe I would have "gotten" it more. This is a scary book about big issues, which is fantastic, but somehow it didn't speak directly to me the way, say, The Dark is Rising does. I do think all of my criticisms are related to the book being too long by half.

While-Reading Upda
Our oldest daughter read this book and highly recommended it, but it took me more than a year to get around to it. Thankfully, there is an audiobook version available through our local library's Overdrive account and I was able to listen to the story during a quiet couple of days following a family fourth of July celebration.

The narrative reminds me of a combination of Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It has some horrific elements, but is still appropriate for m
Overall we liked this one. We thought it was NICE. It was a NICE book that was short enough on WORDS to keep us from loving it. But we liked it. It was pleasant and ultimately enjoyable. Read our thoughts for yourself over at the YAck blog and maybe give THE BONESHAKER a try. It couldn’t hurt. ...more
Sep 22, 2010 marked it as to-read
Can't be any worse the the other Boneshaker. Could be a lot better. ...more
Barb Middleton
Aug 18, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, steampunk
The author has strong characters, beautiful writing, and interesting villains but the pacing was slow in spots. The clues that are dropped are very confusing at times and I wondered where the heck she was going. This is steampunk fantasy and I felt like I was looking at an abstract painting that I didn’t get at times or looking at the world without my glasses - fuzzy on the edges. Perhaps it would have been better read than listened to.
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting characters and challenges - some were clearly "good guys" and helped the protagonist, and some were clearly "bad guys" and fought the protagonist, but there were also some who were ambiguous, and that made the story challenging and intriguing.

This is one of her "nasty bad guys" books, by the way.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Didn’t grab me as much as Greenglass. It’s a very cool mix of fantasy and realism. I enjoyed the main character growing up as the story goes on and the inner stories scattered throughout.
Courtney Johnston
May 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, fiction
Somewhere near the beginning of the last century, deep down in Missouri, a 13-year-old girl gets on her bike and races out to the close-by cross-road, to bargain with the devil for the life of her town.

Kate Milford's 'The Boneshaker' is being cast as steampunk, but I don't know that I agree with that - it's certainly very different from Scott Westerfield's 'Leviathan', or Philip Reeves' series set in - and on - futuristic, mobile, scavenging cities.

Instead, Milford's book is set in that mysterio
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have heard great things about this book and was excited to read it. I received this book as an advanced reading copy through the Amazon Vine Program. It was a wonderful book and I really enjoyed it.

Natalie Minks loves working on all things mechanical. She has an awesome bike that she built with her dad, but cannot ride. When a company of traveling medicine men shows up in town she thinks something is not right with them. When the lead Dr. of the group, Jake Limberleg, makes one of Natalie's au
Oct 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A relatively complex, layered YA read, this book is most basically about the battle between good and evil. Natalie lives in a small town located near a crossroads, which, as we are reminded a number of time, is a place where strange things can happen. At the same time that Natalie is struggling to learn to ride "the fastest bike in the world," built for her by her father, a mysterious travelling medicine show comes to town and Natalie seems to be the only one who notices that anything is off abo ...more
Apr 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Default 3 star rating. In other words, I really don't know how to write this one.

I don't know what I think about this book. I think I wanted to like this book more than I did. There are parts I loved. Tom Guyot for a start, and Miranda, and Natalie herself - most of the characters are great, actually. There are parts this book that really worked. But on the other hand, there are parts that never really came together. Something about the writing, the way it's told frustrated me. I felt like I was
E.J. Stevens
A magical tale of secrets and wonder and the power of one's own confidence. The Boneshaker by Kate Milford (not to be mistaken with Boneshaker by Cherie Priest) begins with Natalie Minks in her sleepy little town of Arcane, where her biggest concern is trying to master riding her new bicycle, a bizarre contraption that her father built for her. Natalie's life, and the lives of Arcane's inhabitants, rapidly changes as a band of strangers, claiming to be Dr. Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Techn ...more
Nov 05, 2010 rated it liked it
I don't read a lot of YA these days, so my review should be read with that in mind.

The Boneshaker is an enjoyable read, but Milford's first novel is pretty obviously just that. The setting is interesting, and the stakes reach a nice level of danger without getting too apocalyptic. Natalie is in a character in the vein of Lyra Silvertongue and it's easy to root for her. The mixing of classic tales is nice as well. One Robert Johnson like character is immensely interesting.

But the flaws are many.
Mar 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
First line: "Strange things can happen at a crossroads."

Summary: Bicycles, mystic powers, clockwork, patent medicines, and the Devil.

I recognize that's a fairly odd summary, but I'm not sure how else to describe it without giving too much away. The book is less about the plot and more about building some rather creeptastic imagery in your mind. Kind of felt like the Gormenghast novels that way, except for young adults and with a sensible editor keeping things in check. And the vibe is more Ameri
Natalie lives in the small town of Arcane, near a crossroads. When Jake Limberleg and his traveling medicine show comes to town, Natalie is immediately curious and suspicious, especially about Limberleg's perpetual motion automatons.

I thought I would like this more. It had steampunk elements, some good vs. evil with demons... and yet the writing was a bit too wordy and I found myself wishing to be reading other things instead of this. Natalie didn't seem like a fully three-dimensional character
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I need to quit my job and just spend all day reading books recommended to me by book bloggers. In all seriousness though, I borrowed The Boneshaker by Kate Milford from the library after reading a Book Smugglers review and y’all, my trust was totally validated with a most excellent reading experience. The Boneshaker by Kate Milford encompasses many elements that I love to encounter in reading. There’s a small town, magic, pictures, something sinister, historical fantasy and a courageous young gi ...more
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Originally from Annapolis, MD, Kate now lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband Nathan and son Griffin and their dogs, Ed and Sprocket. She has written for s

Other books in the series

Arcana (3 books)
  • The Broken Lands (The Boneshaker #0.5)
  • The Kairos Mechanism (Arcana, #1)

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“When there's evil standing in your way, you got to get around it however you can, Natalie. You got to look it in the eye, let it know you see it and that it can't creep up on you. What's dangerous is pretending it isn't there at all and letting it get closer and closer while you're looking someplace else, until suddenly evil's walking alongside you like you were two friends out for a stroll on Sunday. So you look it in the face. You tell it with your eyes that you know what it is, that it don't have you fooled. You tell it you know what GOOD looks like.” 14 likes
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