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Deadlands: Boneyard

by Seanan McGuire

Series: Deadlands (3)

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725270,087 (3.71)3
Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man's forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plant its roots in you!Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus's star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a traveling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.The Clearing has it secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter--and the circus--from both. A gripping tale of the Weird West, set on the haunted frontier of DEADLANDS, the award-winning game from Pinnacle Entertainment Group.… (more)

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Showing 5 of 5
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I've been a big fan of Seanan McGuire for a while so I was super excited to get this ARC, only to realize, belatedly, that it was a part of a series based on a western-style tabletop RPG filled with darkness, magic, monsters, undead, mad science, and a very particular brand of steampunk devoted to the American Wild West.

That's not a dealbreaker. Far from it. I like Weird West stuff. In fact, just to prepare myself for this title, I went out and got the first of the Deadlands books and devoured it, enjoying the fast-paced fun immensely.

So of course, my expectations were very high with this one by an author I've followed religiously.

Unfortunately for me, it felt a bit uneven. There's a ton of great things that can and probably will happen in this RPG setup, but most of that was left out of the book until after the traveling circus made it to Oregon. After that point, however, it picked up wonderfully and I had a great time.

Where it felt slow to me was due to the immersion of being in a circus. And it's odd that I'd feel that way because I enjoyed McGuire's particular circus branding in her InCryptid series.

For that reason, though, it took me a long time to get into the characters and things didn't really start clicking until after the main action began fairly deep into the text. Alas! It ended well and I loved all the supernatural stuff and the history and the wraparound of the main character arc, but I just wish I hadn't had to work so hard to get there.

Maybe it's just me! A lot of people apparently love circus tales and maybe I just don't! :) Even so, I did like this one a lot even if I happened to like the first book in the series better.

I should say, however, that this one felt a lot more genuine, full of deep and complicated characters... unlike the twisted stock characters from the other book. That's definitely a huge kudo for McGuire. :)

Weird West for the win! Anyone hungry? ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
An add-in to the Deadlands universe. Love the characters, the universe they have created. Annie is one tough lady and Adeline looks to take after her. Makes me want to check out the rest of the books. ( )
  bgknighton | May 28, 2019 |
I received this novel from Macmillan-Tor/Forge through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review: my thanks to all of them for this opportunity.

As a fan of author Seanan McGuire, I could not let myself miss this new book that promised to be something different from her usual Urban Fantasy offerings: from GoodReads I learned that the Deadlands book series is derived from a role-playing game, and since I know nothing of the gaming world I wondered if this might have somehow prevented me from fully enjoying the story, but I should not have worried because Boneyard walks quite surely on its own legs and what’s more it’s the kind of story that draws you in and does not let you come up for air until the end. Which is hardly surprising at all, since it’s Seanan McGuire we’re talking about after all and, no matter how biased this might sound, her craft as a storyteller is such that she can draw you in and keep you there, not in spite of the darkness and the fear, but because in her hands these elements can become as mesmerizing as more light-hearted ones.

What’s more, the story’s background is set in the Wild West, in the era of bold settlers forging their way over uncharted territory to build a new life, but with the added spice of a supernatural/horror theme (and some steampunk elements as well): what could be more attractive, particularly since I read the book in the days just before Halloween? For this very reason I decided that posting this review today would be quite appropriate 🙂

The story in short: the Blackstone Family Circus faces some difficult decisions, since winter is approaching and the show has not gathered enough income with their tour to survive comfortably during the cold season, so they are debating whether to accept a potentially remunerative gig in the Oregon settlement of the Clearing, a place where some companies are rumored to have reaped good earnings while others suffered unexplainable losses. Annie Pearl is the keeper of the “oddities”, bizarre and often deadly creatures that she gathered all over the country, like the nibblers – piranha-like fish cursed with perpetual hunger and terrible teeth that jut “out at all angles, making it impossible for the fish to feed without biting themselves”: Annie has been with the circus for several years, and we soon learn that she escaped with her mute daughter Adeline from the house of her worse-than-abusive husband, and has been hiding with the circus ever since. Once the company reaches the Clearing, a bowl-like hollow surrounded by a dense, strangely looming forest, they find the settlers less than welcoming and prone to bizarre behavior, to say the least.

The very first night after their arrival, the circus people find themselves fighting fire, nightmarish predatory creatures and the hostile indifference of the townies, and it falls on Annie – desperately searching for Adeline in the treacherous woods – to uncover the Clearing’s horrible secrets while also facing the long-dreaded return of her husband Michael bent on reclaiming what he considers his properties. The main action develops over that long, horror-filled night that seems to go on forever, both for the characters and in the reader’s perception: to call this a compulsive read would indeed be the understatement of the century…

On the surface Boneyard is a story about horror and the supernatural, focused on surviving in a hostile environment that’s splendidly represented by the forest surrounding the Clearing, a place where trees seem to possess a life of their own and a malicious will, and shadows can take shape and form, pressing on the unwary travelers to sap their energy and life. Yet, on a deeper level, it’s a tale about facing one’s fears and refusing to succumb to them, about never giving in to despair to the point it might consume us: the legend of the wendigo that’s so skillfully employed here is indeed a case in point, where the hunger-stricken colonists give in to their deprivation and become the beast, devoured by a craving for flesh that can never be sated because it goes beyond the mere material plane and ends destroying one’s soul.

Annie has indeed been hiding for a long time, her sole goal that to protect Adeline: she left her home town of Deseret with literally only the clothes on her back, her infant daughter and the lynx Tranquility and we see through the artfully inserted interludes what she left behind – a man whose unwavering faith in science and in his god-given right to own her, body and soul, reveal him as a true monster. Despite her need for concealment, however, Annie has grown stronger: caring for the “oddities” in her wagon she has learned to master different kinds and levels of fear and when push comes to shove she understands that she needs to take survival into her own hands and be the aggressor so that she will not become the victim. Her example helps others find their own courage and the will to fight against the darkness: in this young Martin and his girlfriend Sophia are wonderful examples of timid people who, once faced with the prospect of annihilation, prefer to go down fighting rather than cower in fear waiting for the monsters to kill them.

The other great element of this story is the unstated but always present question about the nature of monsters and how the worst of them always start in human form: the wendigo I already quoted looks like a nightmarish beast, its appearance nothing but the outward manifestation of the shadier, more horrifying sides of our soul; the inhabitants of the Clearing have accepted the price to be paid to the flesh-eating creatures in the woods turning into willing accomplishes, even the younger among them – as shown by the kids who willfully send Adeline into the woods knowing what might find her. The worst monster however remains Michael Murphy, Annie’s husband, whose depths of depravity and madness I will refrain from describing, leaving this discovery to my fellow readers.

By comparison, the creatures that Annie shows to the paying customers, the “oddities” meant to engender fear and revulsion, end up looking like friendly beings, the danger they represent merely coming from inescapable nature and not from the exertion of a twisted will – and their contribution to the story’s development does nothing but reinforce this notion, particularly in the case of Tranquility the lynx, who deserves a special mention.

Once more Seanan McGuire reveals her skills as writer, offering us a gripping story and some unforgettable characters: no matter the tale she chooses to reveal, rest assured that it will be an amazing experience.


Originally posted at SPACE and SORCERY BLOG ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
*I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

Emily is a new voice actor for me. I found I liked her early on. She tells us the story as though I'm sitting and listening to a talented story teller. When she comes to the voices of the characters she puts added tones and innuendos into the voices that fit for the characters. Each character had their own voice and emotion to fit their personality and the moment they are in. She even voices a little girl as young as she should sound. Emily did a great job with voicing all characters differently. Wow. She's one great voice actor. Emily's tension grew with the story as we went. In the darkest moments, her voice was strong with emotion, tension, and worry. I felt all the emotions and was drawn to keep listening. Amazing work. I enjoyed her voice acting very much!

I've not read or listened to any of Seanan's books yet. This is my first. And I liked how she hints at things with details instead of just saying what the obvious is. Like the description of bruises and seeing ribs, instead of telling there was abuse or lack of food. This gives me a feel rather than just knowing what has possibly happened.

We start the book with the Blackstone Family Circus traveling and get a feel for the people in the circus. It's a bit slower paced as we meet the characters in their surroundings.

As the story is told, we get it mostly from Annie's view point. But there are times we get the view from Nathanial's mind along with a few others. It's a graceful shift in the story that you don't realize it right away that you are seeing the story from another's view. It keeps the story going forward with a smooth transition.

I think if I was reading this book, I would have stopped. It felt slow moving for me. But, Emily's narration kept me holding on. And I started to grow curious about The Clearing. Chapter seven is about when I started getting interested in the story. The reaction of the town to the circus people and Oddities Annie cares for. Things picked up for me in the book when we got to The Clearing. When we got into the woods, oh yes, this is what I was looking for. But before all this, it felt slow.

When we get to The Clearing, we start to see the personality of the people who live here. They are... unkind. And the things that could go oh so wrong with what the circus has and the way these town folk are... oh so wrong can happen. Though, when out on the search I get lost in Annie's thoughts as she's walking through the forest. I just didn't feel to connect with this character. I felt as though it was more character driven and I just wasn't into it. I wanted more events to happen.

The cover depicts some of the Oddities that Annie cares for very well. I really like this cover.

These characters have internal battles they are fighting before they come to the external ones. They grow in their experiences and understandings along with fighting what's after them. Great parallel here with both. Sometimes external battles help make the internal ones clearer. Annie has more baggage she's carrying along, more battles she'll have to fight with what and who is after her. ( )
  MelHay | Mar 3, 2018 |
This is the third book in the Deadlands trilogy, which is a book trilogy based on the Deadlands role-playing game. I am not familiar with the RPG and have not read the previous two books in the series. However I do love Seanan McGuire as an author so I thought I would give it a read. This ended up being an interesting and well done story; I didn’t feel like I was missing anything jumping in at the end of the series...the story stood alone on its own fine.

The characters are well done. I enjoyed reading about Annie Pearl, her mute daughter, and unraveling her mysterious past. The side characters are just as engaging as the main ones. I always enjoy books that are set in a circus setting; especially a traveling circus setting (it is kind of odd though because McGuire's last InCryptid book was also set in a circus).

The circus travels to Oregon to stop in The Clearing for one last performance. Of course the circus members know nothing of the dark history of The Clearing and the creatures that lurk in the dark woods surrounding it. What happens in the The Clearing will not only change everyone’s life, but lead to a confrontation Annie has been dreading.

The story is full of adventure, action, mystery, and some horror. There are quite a few steampunk elements as well and the tone is very Wild West. While I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as McGuire’s other books, I did still like it a lot. Deadlands is a very interesting world and this book has me intrigued enough that I might look into the RPG.

Overall a well done book. There is a good balance of interesting world-building, action, horror, mystery, romance, and engaging characters. I would recommend to those who enjoy the whole steampunk western theme and don’t mind a horror undertone to their stories. ( )
  krau0098 | Oct 1, 2017 |
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Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man's forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plant its roots in you!Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus's star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a traveling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.The Clearing has it secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter--and the circus--from both. A gripping tale of the Weird West, set on the haunted frontier of DEADLANDS, the award-winning game from Pinnacle Entertainment Group.

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