The third book in the Clockwork Century series.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Kate Reading
Running Time: 13 hrs and 24 minute

Venita “Mercy” Lynch is a nurse in the Robertson war hospital in Virginia. Even though she was born a Southerner, she married a Yankee three years ago. Over two years, her husband has been a soldier in the civil war between the Union and the Confederacy, on the side of the Union. Then Mercy is given the news that her beloved Philip has died in a POW camp and she feels like her world ends. But she’s given only a day to mourn and then she’s back to work: assisting male doctors in surgery, comforting the dying, and cleaning up after the living and the dead.

Then she gets a message that her father is dying in Seattle and he wants to see her. Mercy haven’t seen her father since she was a little girl and he left Mercy and her mother. Still, Mercy feels that it’s her duty to go and she also needs a change. So, she slips quietly away into a dirigible heading North.

The long journey is a dangerous adventure and Mercy’s professional skills are stretched to the limit with wounded men. Other people, both men and women, are also suspicious of her because she travels alone and she has to prove herself time and again.

Dreadnought describes the horrors of war; men who are too badly wounded to live long, men dying suddenly or with agonizing slowness, orphans and widows who are left behind. I’m a pacifist in real life, so Priest is preaching to the choir here. In fact, I was occasionally nauseated by the descriptions. However, throughout it all, Mercy remains a practical, level-headed, no-nonsense heroine who does what has to be done. She’s competent and keeps her cool. I loved her! However, she’s quite reminiscent of both Maria in the previous book and Briar in Boneshaker. (In fact, I’d love to see Maria Boyd and Mercy teaming up!)

The Civil War has been going on for twenty years and the narrator says plainly that the war isn’t about abolition anymore but about defending home. However, only two of the Southern states still practice slavery. The rest have freed their former slaves to work on their own land. The Union people seem to be more racist that the Southerners or at least they make a point not to mingle at all with non-white people.

Some other reviewers mentioned that they found the lack of romance odd. I don’t; she’s just been widowed! Sheesh, it seems pretty odd to me to demand that a woman is somehow required to start a romance just a couple of days after her husband died! True, they spent the last two years apart but that doesn’t mean their feelings cooled off because of it. Mercy doesn’t dwell on her feelings during the journey but she doesn’t seem to be a demonstrative person and so she probably doesn’t want to start crying in front of strangers.

Dreadnought has a huge cast of secondary characters. Partly it’s because they change a couple of times when Mercy continues with her journey. Mercy also travels with several people. Some of them need Mercy’s skills and some are suspicious of her because she’s seen as too Southern. Most are suspicious of each other. Mercy often tries to conceal where she comes from but her way of talking is still revealing. Most of the secondary characters are very territorial which is probably expected after a long war. They range from kids to various adults and a couple of retired elders. I enjoyed most of them. The late Bloody Bill is (Buffalo Bill?) is said to have been a robber along and his underlings, the James’ brothers, still are. I hope we get to know more about them at some point.

There are a couple of mysteries to solve on the way and they tie in with the first book, Boneshaker.

Dreadnought is an enjoyable adventure story if somewhat dark at the times, and a great continuation to the series.