Jane Wilde, August 1, 2012 (view all comments by Jane Wilde)
I've read the first three volumes of Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century tales, and I have to say that "Clementine" was a rip-roaring delight! The action takes place in an alternate history where the Civil War (aka War Between the States, etc.) has been going on for at least 17 years. She doesn't spend much time on details about the alternate history except to give you what you need to understand each book's story in its specific context. However, if you read the entire series you will definitely get a fairly developed understanding of the alternate world Priest has created.
The two main characters in "Clementine" are a female actress and former spy for the Confederacy, and an escaped slave who has turned dirigible pirate. I won't go into plot details, but of course these two end up having to work together for both to achieve their ends. But don't be fooled by that seemingly happy situation; all of these books are populated by characters who have had to develop their own standards for acceptable behaviour and actions, having strayed into occupations - and geographical locations - where there is no prevailing society to dictate what is and isn't proper. Thus, the characters think and act outside the box.
Which is good, because this book is action-packed and fast-paced. Down time in the story is never wasted - the plot is always forwarded in some way between flights and fights. The main characters are intelligent but not intellectuals, so if you're looking for a steam-punk/alt history story with lots of exposition and discourse, this wouldn't be the book for you (none of the series thus far would be).
Also, the books thus far seem to be romance-free even though there are strong female characters in each book I've read. And frankly, I find that a nice break from what's generally available. And there is some moderately graphic violence in the story.
In summary, this book is a great action/adventure book with an interesting background, really interesting characters, great pacing. A quick, enjoyable read that, at the end, doesn't leave you feeling as if you'd eaten a giant bag of Doritos in one afternoon. I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installments in the series!
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