Briar Wilkes: Character Connection

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Cover of Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Briar Wilkes from Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker just tries to keep her head down and feed herself and her teenage son. The problem is, her life is overshadowed by her relationships to a couple of Seattle’s most (in)famous figures.

First of all, there’s her father, Maynard. He’s a legend for going back into the city during the evacuation and letting criminals out of the city jail. Briar doesn’t know what to think of his motives, but most believe that he acted out of a spirit of fairness and justice. The men in the jail hadn’t done anything terrible. Why should they be doomed to breathe in the Blight and either die a horrible death or be doomed to roam as mindless, insatiable “rotters”?

On the other hand, when she was younger and more naive, Briar made the tremendous error of marrying Leviticus Blue. He’s the one who basically destroyed the city. He was building a machine for the Russians that would be able to simultaneously break through the permafrost of Alaska and bring out the gold rumored to be hidden underneath. On a test run, he turned his “Boneshaker” machine loose on the city, headed straight for the financial district’s vaults, killed at least dozens, and disturbed the earth so much that the gas known as the Blight burst forth, killing the lucky ones and zombifying the unfortunates.

So you see Briar’s problem.

She’s trying to forget the past, but those who know who she is just won’t leave her alone. Constantly ruining her equipment at the water purification plant where she works and making snide comments to her, her tormenters just won’t quit. She lacks the money to start fresh somewhere else so she just soldiers on the best she can.  She dreams about moving to another city where no one knows who she is, but she’s practical enough to know that it’s just not going to happen.

Her teenage son, Zeke, is enduring much the same attacks. He refuses to believe that his father was bad. Briar refuses to talk about it, and has honestly taken a pretty hands-off approach to him. She works long hours just to feed them both and placates her conscience by telling herself that other teens must be envious of Zeke’s freedom. But Zeke ultimately decides to look for answers elsewhere since she’s not sharing them. He goes inside the walled-off, Blight-ridden part of Seattle.

And this is where Briar comes into her own.

She goes after him. She might not be all that involved in Zeke’s life, but he’s all she has and she loves him. Zeke’s entrance is cut off in an earthquake, so even getting inside is a challenge for her. Once inside, she is scared half out of her mind most of the time, but she keeps searching and enlisting others to help her. She totes around her father’s shotgun and wields it to deadly effect. She makes friends, enemies, and has many near-misses with zombies. But she is fierce as a mother bear in her search for Zeke.

I wasn’t sure about Briar at first, but I decided I liked her the moment she decides to go after Zeke. My admiration for her only grew as I read the rest of the book. There’s one final revelation that just sealed the deal for me. Briar might not show everything that she is right up front, but underneath that serious, aloof exterior is a loyal woman who is not to be tampered with. I just loved her.

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