Awhile ago, I read and reviewed Boneshaker, the first in Cherie Priest‘s The Clockwork Century series. I started it just after Boneshaker, but grad school reading got the better of me. I read about a quarter of it in a day, then finished it on another day awhile later. It’s a quick read, but by no means dull or lacking in any way.
This novella picks up just after the end of Boneshaker. One of my favorite aspects of the first novel was the world that Priest created. While Boneshaker takes place entirely in the walled, rotter-infested city of Seattle, this is a cross country journey. We begin to see the breadth of the Clockwork Century, and I love it. I hear that Dreadnought goes even further in the exploration of this alternative 19th Century America, and I cannot wait for that.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Captain Croggon Beuregard Heaney is rather angry. He is the captain of The Free Crow, a dirigible which was stolen from him at the end of Boneshaker. Re-christened Clementine, the ship sails east under its new management, its true destination unknown. Meanwhile, Maria Isabella Boyd is on her first assignment for the Pinkerton Agency. She is a former Confederate spy and actress, yet her assignment comes from the Union Army. She must make sure that the Clementine reaches her new destination.
The narrative alternately follows Maria and Heaney on their separate journeys, but they eventually meet up. Heaney is a former slave, a large man with a booming personality. While he may be a pirate, he still possesses some good morals and a well-crafted sense of honor that is all his own. Maria was my favorite of the novel. She is wickedly clever, endlessly cunning, and resourceful. Her talents as an actress serve her in the end, and I thoroughly enjoyed going on the journey with her.
The world that Priest has created is wondrous, tragic, and well constructed with intricate, vivid details. Her characters are well-rounded and interesting, both of whom exemplify different aspects of one end of the social spectrum. A single woman of that time had no place in the normal social structure–she had to make her own way in the world. A freed slave dwelt on an even lower stratum. This provides a bottom-up view of the world. Even more, we see a different type of underdog story. In both story lines, the characters are those who would normally be relegated to servitude or worse, yet the freed slave is the captain of an airship and the woman is a capable, depended upon agent of a respected institution–and her reputation precedes her.
While Boneshaker saw much action, most of it dealt with escaping from rotters and evading the pervasive blight, Clementine is filled with spectacular battle scenes from the opening pages, right to the end. There are battles between the Heaney’s substitute airship and the Clementine, and a fast-paced gunfight at the end.
I loved Clementine. I hope to finish Dreadnought soon so that I can catch up before the fourth installment in the Clockwork Century comes out–which I hear Priest has just started.