Cherie Priest’s second installment in her Clockwork Century series, Clementine, follows airship captain Croggon Hainey as he sets out to reclaim the ship he rightful stole, the Free Crow. Parallel to Croggin’s journey, is that of Maria “Belle” Boyd, former Confederate spy and recent employee of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, who, incidentally, was a real-life character in history and lived a life equal to Priest’s fictional portrayal. Boyd’s mission is to stop Croggin from finding the Free Crow, now renamed the Clementine.
Set in the same universe as Priest’s Hugo-nominated Boneshaker, the novel is told in dual perspectives- Croggin and Boyd’s- and follows both characters who have left menacing and impressive reputations in their wake.
Croggin is a former slave and pirate with a big heart. Boyd grudgingly has been employed by the Union-funded Pinkerton agency to assure that the Clementine reaches Kansas City. When their paths cross, each agenda shifts and the duo decide to team up.
Less scif and more spy thriller, Clementine is unlike the other novels in the Clockwork Century series. There are no zombies, no straight scifi tropes that permeated Boneshaker and, interestingly, we get a broader view of the Civil War which, in this universe, has lasted decades. Again, the reader is treated to Priest’s extensive penchant for research and detail that becomes as vital to the story as the plot and the captivating characters playing lead.
Shining brightly is Priest’s impeccable dialog- all realistic sarcasm and authentic insight into characters thrust into roles they did not choose, agendas born from circumstance.
If Boneshaker was the blissful main course, served early, to the Clockwork Century series, then Clementine is the brief snack that cleanses the palette. In any event, this is a story that shouldn’t be missed, particularly for die hard Priest devotees.