Clementine is the second long-form work in Cherie Priest's zombie-infested, alternate-history-Civil-War universe known as the Clockwork Century, coming after Boneshaker but preceding Dreadnought. The story is stand-alone, though its characters and locations overlap with those of the other works. The book is a novella, rather than a novel, because Priest wanted to write a book for Subterranean, but Tor had right of first refusal for any works over 60,000 words. One drawback to this deal is that Subterranean only published a small number of copies of the first printing---a hardcover---which instantly sold out. A paperback will be published next year, but that was too long for me to wait. Thus, I read this novella in Kindle form on my iPhone.
"OK, but what's it about?" I hear you ask. The story follows dirigible pirate Croggon Hainey as he attempts to reclaim his rightfully stolen airship, the Free Crow, from those who wrongfully stole it from him. The plot also follows former Confederate spy and current Pinkerton detective Maria Isabella Boyd in her efforts to ensure that the dirigible, newly re-christened the Clementine, reaches the destination intended by its new owners.
What I Liked
- Dude, airships. It was gratifying to read a Clockwork Century story focused on the steampunkiest of vehicles, the dirigible.
- The characters. The two main characters I described above, particularly Ms Boyd, are interesting and compelling.
- The plot. The story is entertaining. I especially enjoyed the way Hainey's story intertwines with Boyd's.
- The pacing. The story moves along very quickly. It never drags, as I feel Boneshaker does at a few points. For example, the story wraps up quickly after the resolution of the main plot line, without an extending winding down. I'm guessing this speed is a direct result of the necessity to keep the book under 60,000 words.
- The crossover. The plot crosses over with another Clockwork Century story in a way I didn't expect but enjoyed.
What I Disliked
- The duration. As I said, the brevity of the book keeps the story moving, but it also means that there isn't room to follow any side stories or explore the universe of the Clockwork Century as much as I'd like.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I give Clementine 8.0 out of 10. So far, I'd say Dreadnought is my favorite work from the Clockwork Century, but this one is a satisfying read.