Cherie Priest,
(Subterranean Press, 2010)

The world Cherie Priest built in Boneshaker gets a whole lot wider in Clementine.

Boneshaker introduced readers to Priest's steampunk America, a late 18th-century setting where the Civil War drags on and the path of technology runs a bit differently than it did in our own history books. But, while the first book focused on strange yellow gases and the science-spawned zombies that roam within the walled city of Seattle, Clementine takes us on a wild chase across the sky in hydrogen-powered airships.

Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey, who made a brief but memorable appearance in Boneshaker with his small but able pirate crew, is now chasing after his stolen dirigible Free Crow with a fierce and murderous gleam in his eye. Meanwhile, former Confederate spy Maria Isabella Boyd has been cut loose by her usual employer and seeks a new position with the venerable Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Her first assignment is to protect the Union airship Clementine -- I don't think I'm giving away any big secrets by revealing that Clementine and Free Crow are one and the same -- from the notorious marauder in violent pursuit.

The second in Priest's ongoing Clockwork Century series, Clementine is a slim but exciting stand-alone tale that builds on Boneshaker's foundation without relying on it. This book is much faster-paced than its predecessor; what it lacks in intricate detail and layered world-building it makes up for in sheer exuberant thrills.

Hainey is a larger-than-life antihero who leaves a trail of bodies (and body parts) and burning rubble in his wake even as he brings a piratical roar to every scene that he steals. Boyd is a talented and meticulous operative who finds inspiration in the direst of circumstances and whose perspective on friends and foes is nothing if not adaptable to the scene.

Priest, meanwhile, is crafting a landscape I very much want to explore further. She throws cliches, formulaic writing and caution to the wind as her airships scream through the sky. From zombies to sky pirates -- I can hardly wait to see where she takes us next.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

13 February 2010

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