This is the second book in the Clockwork Century series, following on from Boneshaker, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago - this is a world where the American Civil War dragged on for many years longer and where technological advances mean that it seems unlikely to end any time soon. Meanwhile, the poisonous gas we met in Boneshaker has been turned into an addictive and deadly drug, one which turns its addicts into the walking dead.
This time around, our story is told from the perspective of one Mercy Lynch, who is working as a nurse in a Virginia hospital. In quick succession she's informed of the death of her husband in a prisoner of war camp and that her estranged father is very close to death and asking for her - the only problem is that he's in Seattle, almost the other side of the country. Mercy decides to go to him anyway, starting a journey that will be both long and full of incident, initially by airship and then later mostly by means of the eponymous Dreadnought, a massive train.
The story drags a little during this period, as there's a substantial chunk of the book with Mercy just travelling and wondering what's going on - the Dreadnought has two heavily-guarded carriages, one at the front and one at the back. The one at the back is supposedly being used to transport the dead bodies of soldiers back to their homes but never seems to be unloaded at any point on their journey. As her medical knowledge is called upon when the train is attacked by raiders, Mercy quickly comes to know just what is in those two mysterious carriages and how it links together with the earlier disappearance of a group of Mexican soldiers.
As a result of my issues with the pacing and what felt like a little too much time spent on a period where very little was going on, I've given this book 3 stars as opposed to the 4 I gave Boneshaker. I still intend to continue with this series, as the author treats female characters as if they had a functioning brain and has so far not thrown any of them into a romantic entanglement (a temptation lesser authors would probably have seized upon, given the amount of time Mercy spends in relatively close quarters during this book). The next book in the series is Ganymede.