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VINE VOICEon August 6, 2010
Cherie Priest's second long-form entry Clementine in The Clockwork Century world follows a side story from the Hugo nominated Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books), which just happens to be one of my favorite reads from last year. Having read Boneshaker isn't necessary to enjoy Clementine, but it does add to some of the references made.

The story flips between two perspectives which are both uniquely idiosyncratic and well developed in their own right. The stars are airship captain and escaped slave Croggon Hainey and former confederate spy and patriot Maria "Belle" Boyd. Both are something of a living legend or menace in this world depending on what side of the fence your are viewing from. Neither take crap from anyone.

Croggin is chasing after his airship the Free Crow, which was nefariously stolen from him in Seattle. Belle is sent to ensure the Free Crow reaches its destination without Croggin's interference. Belle is actually based on a true person of the same name who acted as a spy for the Confederate army. Priest builds on her history to create a very determined and dangerous character very much true to life. Clementine's greatest strength is the dialog of the main characters. Each has their own style that colors the characters perfectly.

Clementine is a much more subtle story than Boneshaker, but it is no less enthralling as every chapter moves at a brisk pace. Airship fights, spies, thieves, and giant guns all make Clementine a seriously steam-powered wild ride through the sky, which showcases a larger part of Priest's Clockwork Century fractured North America. The war of the North versus the South is still on going in the late 19th century filled with steam-powered weaponry and mad scientist trying to turn the tide of the war one way or the other.

I did feel Cherie had to rein herself in with the book to keep it to novella length as she clearly loves this world and its inhabitants. Hopefully, she'll treat us to more with Belle and Croggin. Belle definitely has an adventure left for here. I kept expecting more of a intimate relationship to develop between Croggin and Belle, but things do seem to have been left open somewhat in that regard. The story arc does complete itself rather well with a fitting culmination and a few surprises along the way. We also learn being a Mad Scientist doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad scientist.

Priest is gives us glimpses of a world that is wide and wild in a story that hardly touches the ground. Clementine shows off the southern flair that Cherie has become famous for, but will please even hardened Steampunk fans with her ingenuity at keeping everything fresh and yet historically stylized. Cherie still has a lot more in store for us in The Clockwork Century including at least two more shorts and the next full length novel Dreadnought, which Tor will be releasing this September. She is definitely earning the moniker as the Queen of Steampunk, but she may have to duel it out with Gail Carriger in some sort of no holds-barred battle royale.
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on December 15, 2011
Hainey, a free slave in this alternate version of the late 1800's where the Civil War has dragged out nearly two decades, has a brief but memorable part in Boneshaker. Enough so that I was very much looking forward to reading the story of his stolen ship treated in this sequel. Boneshaker paints him and his zeppelin flying cohorts in the Han Solo, neutral pirate/smuggler vein of character, but what we get here is a little different, and ultimately unsatisfying.

From the start, when Maria is introduced as the Pinkerton detective assigned to reel him in, it is made clear that Hainey has done some bad things to earn his reputation - bad enough that Maria's orders are clear, she may slay him or capture him and return him to the South, whatever she wishes so long as he doesn't get back his stolen ship. These two characters are what the story revolves around, and halfway through they fall flat.

*** SPOILERS ***
Hainey's fall from the reader's grace occurs when he mows down in cold blood a crowd of dockyard workers, men whom are only trying to prevent his crew's theft of a docked zeppelin. He doesn't fire at their feet or scare them into submission, any of the usual tropes we normally indulge an author. It is really hard to sympathize with this character after that point - there's a fine line between Han Solo mowing down Imperials, and a man mowing down innocent dockhands. There is a similar killing of an innocent Chinaman in Boneshaker, and Priest handles that scene and its aftermath very well. She makes it a very revealing moment for both characters involved. Priest breezes past Hainey's murders under the guise of self/crew-defense, and it is simply not consistent with the character we had seen or hoped for up to that point - there is no regret or guilt felt. Priest had hinted that Hainey deserved his reputation, but its ultimately a disappointment to the reader. It was difficult to care about whether or not he got his precious ship back after that point.

Maria is a more consistent disappointment. The book builds up to her showdown with Hainey, and when it happens its smack-dab in the middle of the ship theft, where the two join in the mutual escape with their lives. The resulting truce between them is logical, but the showdown is awkward in many ways and a letdown. Rarely does the author examine Maria's motivations - despite having worked for the Confederacy, you never once hear her thoughts on slavery, or on Hainey and what she would've ultimately done with him, had a certain plot device threatening the South not changed her goals. She comes off very flat and only marginally gains any sympathy as a character, in stark contrast to Briar Wilkes, the mother hellbent on finding her son in Boneshaker. The layers of story just peel off Briar as Boneshaker progresses, ending with a fantastic reveal at the end, but Maria remains an unrewarding cipher from start to finish.

Likewise, there is no reveal for Hainey and the story of his precious Free Crow. He wants it back, that's the story. We learn less than a paragraph about it beyond what we got back in Boneshaker. Speaking of the zeppelins, Priest can be forgiven for glossing over details in the first book where they are a sideline to the story, but Clementine should have painted in that sketch. I still have no idea how to picture these things - are warships entirely armored, including the gas bags? They seem to operate more as jet airships than they do as floating airships, which gets hard to picture. Is the reader really supposed to take seriously a tense scene where a pistol shot from an expert marksman at close range may miss and ricochet to explode the hydrogen tanks, just pages after a scene where a poorly controlled shoulder-mounted Gatling is fired among them? There are similar inconsistencies that mar Boneshaker but here they added up just enough to keep me from buying into the world and enjoying the ride.
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on September 9, 2012
Clementine is a short novel that takes place in Priest's Clockwork Century universe. Since these are all more shared worlds novels than continuing storylines, it is not necessary to have read the other novels in order to understand Clementine. That being said, the world building of the other novels does add to the enjoyment of this one.

Clementine is a lean, mean adventure novel. While there is a small supporting cast, Priest focuses on two main characters. Pirate Croggon Hainey is determined to get his airship back. He's willing to undertake a violent cross-country chase if that's what it takes. Belle Boyd, former Confederate spy turned Pinkerton agent, is assigned to stop him and make sure that the ship's cargo arrives in Kentucky.

Priest's narrow focus means that the short length of this novel does not work to its detriment. She develops the two protagonists and has plenty of room for their fast paced adventures. The plot moves swiftly, & is surprisingly compelling given its simplicity.

While not as significant as Priest's other Clockwork Century novels, Clementine is an entertaining read and adds more depth & texture to the world she has created.
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on October 1, 2010
I just finished reading Clementine by Cherie Priest, which I downloaded and read on my Kindle reader. This was a fun, although short, followup to Boneshaker. Reading Boneshaker is not necessary to enjoy this novel, but it helps to set the context. There are a few characters that will be recognized. The story follows two primary protagonists, Belle Boyd (a former Confederate spy) and Croggon Hainey (an airship pirate who appeared in Boneshaker). The story starts with Hainey pusuing his stolen dirigible, which the thieves have renamed to Clementine. Boyd was just hired by the Pinkerton detective agency, and her mission is to see that the cargo the thieves are transporting arrives at its destination... and, if she so desires, an opportunity to capture Hainey, a fugitive slave whose capture may buy her favor with her former employer, the Confederacy. The two eventually cross paths, and start a wary partnership. It is a great ride. The book is pretty short, but the Kindle price reflects that. I highly recommend reading Boneshaker and folowing it up with this.
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on April 29, 2011
I really enjoy this series. Clementine is a modern steampunk dime novel with courageous heroes and heroines on the wrong side of the law who get the job done come hell or high water.

It's not YA. There isn't a teenaged hero in this one, so if you were hoping for that, be forewarned. It's also not set in Seattle, but picks up shortly after Boneshaker with new main characters, both around their 40s. I would still say that this would be fine for teen readers who are interested in moving beyond YA books. There is some violence, no sex or romance.

Crog Hainey was a minor character in Boneshaker, but here shares the spotlight with Belle Boyd. They are opposites - he is an escaped slave, one of the Macon Madmen, who stole a Rebel airship and runs guns, drugs, and performs the occasional bank robbery. Boyd is a Southern Belle, Rebel spy, actress, and newest employee of the Pinkertons.

The War Between the States is still raging, with no end in sight. Hainey's ship, the Free Crow, has been stolen and he is chasing it. Boyd's first job with the Pinkerton's is to make sure the Crow (now called the Clementine) makes its destination, which means she must dispatch Hainey. Throw in a weapon of mass destruction, old loyalties, and an unexpected partnership and you have the very fun, action-packed ride that is Clementine.

This was a pretty quick read, but gets us across more of the landscape of The Clockwork Century world. Looking forward to what we'll get to see in book 3.

This book is different from Book 1 and Book 3, mostly becuase it is a limited edition run by a different publisher (that is also why it is so short). I found the full explanation of this on Priest's Clockwork Century FAQ page. So, the hardcovers are hard to come by and very expensive, but it is also available for Kindle.
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on November 28, 2010
First of all, I have to mention how difficult it was to figure out what was up with this book. I checked my book sites when I was starting to read Dreadnought and they all said it was book three in the series. But where's book two?, I wondered. I checked my local library (nope), I checked Barnes and Nobles' site (uh uh) and I checked Amazon (yes, but only if I want to pay fifty bucks for a two hundred page book. A little more research turned up the fact that for some reason Tor did not want to release the second book, so it went somewhere else, thus the lack of availability and the expensiveness. At any rate, since I cannot stand to read series out of order, I purchased the Kindle copy for $2.99, which seems to be the only realistic way to read this book. Crazy!

The story was, as mentioned before, fairly brief. It should not have been in any other way. As it is, it sets and maintains a good pace. It fills a bit of a gap from the first book. It's nice to see an author following a dangling plot thread, rather than leaving you wondering why his ship got stolen in book one other than to give a bunch of airmen a reason to be on the scene in Seattle. Much like in the first book, the characters still lack a bit of depth, but they are slightly improved.

The best thing about Cherie Priest's books though are her kickass women. Maria Boyd, in my opinion, puts the ladies of Seattle to shame, because she is smart, strong and willing to do whatever she has to in order to get her way. Action and gunfights abound and Maria is often right in the middle of them.

Fun bit of wordplay:
"'That's big of you,' Maria said dryly.
'I'm glad you approve,' he responded with equal lack of humidity."
Oh, that's great. Lack of humidity! It's such a terrible joke (which is why I love it)!

A fun second book for the series, quick and easy, like sorbet or crackers to cleanse the palette after a course in a meal or wine tasting.
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on December 12, 2013
Cherie Priest scores another hit in her rich world of an alternate 19th Century USA in which the Civil War is stretching out for decades. She creates very distinctive lead characters and then does a good job of putting them through the ringer in this short (208 pages) book, picking up the thread of a plot about escaped slave and air pirate Captain Croggin Beauregard Hainey, who had a small part in the novel Boneshaker. In pursuit of him is a new character, too-famous-to-be-a-spy ex-Confederate spy Maria "Belle" Boyd, now working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency on behalf of the Union Army.

The action is kept fast and furious and fairly believable. The use of geography over mid-America is made interesting by using powered airships (she's never precise about how the engines work, propellers?) to move quickly between cities. I had a little trouble believing that landing a powered and armored dirigible anywhere within a mile of a remote building could be done with any amount of stealth. Perhaps the commonplace nature of airships in this world allow for it.

Another failing, if I may call it that, is that there is no clear antagonist in the story. Well there is one, but they are kept all too mysterious and unexplored. Upon reflection, Boneshaker could be seen to have a similar shortcoming.

In any event, the whole thing is an enjoyable and all too short romp that reminded me of one the better episodes of The Wild Wild West. Belle Boyd would certainly give James West a run for his money.
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on October 28, 2012
Clementine is a fun adventure with very unique characters set during the Civil War, the heroine a discarded Union spy forced to work for Pinkerton and the hero an airship pirate intent on regaining his stolen dirigible. I thoroughly enjoyed the sometimes unexpected twists and turns that pulled the story along. I am, however, a devoted fan of Boneshaker, a much deeper and complex story. I was expecting more of the same and Clementine does not contain the emotional nuances and high stakes of Boneshaker, which disappointed me. This isn't to say that Clementine is not a good story, just that it doesn't measure up to Boneshaker. That's a mixed blessing for Priest, I suppose, to have her stiffest competition be herself. That said, I still highly recommend this book and plan to purchase the next one. Priest's characters are just too fascinating to let go.
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on December 28, 2011
I found this shorter novel fun and interesting to read. Cherie Priest continues/adds to her Clockwork Century world by giving us this fun, if a little silly, novella that brings together the on-going American Civil War and her initial characters from the Washington territory.

There's no doubt about it, Cherie Priest is a good writer and keeps the reader fully engaged in the story. While I have my doubts at times about the 'reality' of some of the character's actions, it is always important to remember that this is alternate history and a bit of alternate reality. Therefore it's important to suspend that dis-belief to the degree necessary to fully appreciate the story.

I found it fun, engaging, witty, even with the fair amount of predictability.

If you enjoy Cherie Preist's Clockwork Century world, you will enjoy this story.
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on March 29, 2011
Loved it! Cherie Priest writes great characters, and her Clockwork Century setting is the perfect backdrop to tell their exciting stories. Clementine is a long novella featuring escaped slave/pirate Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey and former Confederate spy Maria Isabella Boyd in a fast-paced tale of revenge and redemption, with a steampunk infused twist.

I'm looking forward to more of these shorter tales in between the full novels from Tor -- more Texas Ranger Horatio Korman, please! -- and would LOVE to see Priest take a similar approach to Eric Flint's 1632 series (or David Petersen's Mouse Guard), opening up The Clockwork Century to other authors to contribute stories.


PS: I read the Kindle edition, but I also received as a gift a copy of the limited edition hardcover, #169 of 200.
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