The Boneshaker Kate Milford Book Review

The Boneshaker Kate Milford Book ReviewThe Boneshaker by Kate Milford
Also by this author: Greenglass House
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 24th 2010
Genres: Young Adult, Family, General, Historical, United States, 20th Century, Horror & Ghost Stories
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon

Thirteen-year-old 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.
Set in 1914, The Boneshaker is a gripping, richly textured novel about family, community, courage, and looking evil directly in the face in order to conquer it. This ebook includes a sample chapter of THE BROKEN LANDS.

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 girl.

Natalie Minks is the aforementioned courageous young girl. She lives in the small town of Arcane, Missouri. Arcane sits at a crossroads — travelers avoid it or go through as quickly as possible. Set in 1915, Natalie is enamored with the Wright Brothers who invented the first airplane. She’s also trying to learn to ride her custom made bicycle, called a bone shaker. In all, Natalie lives a rather average life with her family, her dad a fantastic mechanic and her mom who tells the most amazing stories, plus her brother. All of this changes when Jake Limberleg and the traveling medicine show come to town. Natalie can sense something sinister about the show. Will she have the courage to look that evil in the eye?!

Friends, I want to hug The Boneshaker by Kate Milford. It’s middle grade but not at all written down. It feels very much like a classic. There’s this real sense of grand story between the pages — I’m not sure how to describe it exactly, except to say that I will likely end up reading again to parse out the deeper meaning. I mean, the book starts off really slow, but I got so absorbed in the prose and atmosphere that by the time action happens, I was heavily invested. Maybe that’s what I am trying to say, that the world building is very, very well done, you get such a sense of place and story with The Boneshaker.

I thought the pen and ink drawings by Andrea Offermann really enhanced The Boneshaker. It made the story feel more authentic, like something kids reading in 1914 would see. Plus there’s an astonishing level of detail to the drawing. I definitely paused at each picture and often turned back to reexamine them after reading the bits of plot that go with the pictures. And honestly, it’s really cool having the visual to go with the book.

Do you like historical fantasy? Set in middle America? Are you okay with a story taking time to build itself? Do you like folklore and brave young ladies? Are you a patient reader? If you answered yes to all of the questions then I think you’ll like The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, but if you answer no, then perhaps this would not be the most satisfying read for you.

Disclosure: Borrowed from the local library.

Other reviews of The Boneshaker by Kate Milford:

Great Imaginations – “The imagery in this book was terrific

The Book Smugglers – “Choice is at the heart of this fantastic novel.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’ve never heard of this and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I knew it was middle grade but I really enjoyed your review and think Natalie sounds like a great MC!

    And I would love to just sit around reading all day, every day!

  2. I’ve never heard of this one but it sounds fantastic! I’m adding it to my wish list.

  3. I read this book a long time ago and I still find it memorable. You are right, it does start off incredibly slow, but once it gets going, my gosh, it’s such a vivid book.

    Incidentally, I think this may have been the first Goodreads giveaway I won. And I got a signed copy. The author is pretty awesome. I haven’t read the sequel yet, but I will be anxiously be awaiting your thoughts.

    Loved this one. It was such an intelligent book. Wonderful review.

  4. Sounds like a fun read! Thanks for posting it! 😀

  5. You’ve convinced me that it is absolutely necessary for me to check this one out. It sounds so good!


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