Elizabeth Headrick's Reviews > Clementine

Clementine by Cherie Priest
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Apr 15, 2011

really liked it
Read in April, 2011

In an America where Abraham Lincoln was never assassinated and the Civil War has dragged on for twenty years, an escaped slave-turned-air-pirate and an aged and disgraced former Confederate spy race through the skies, both bent on catching the same ship, if for entirely different reasons. Maria Isabella Boyd hopes to reclaim her dignity and perhaps get something over on the Confederate army that tossed her aside. Captain Croggon Hainey just wants his damn ship back and is willing to risk his own skin (and freedom) to do it. In Clementine, Cherie Priest takes her readers back into her Clockwork Century with a short but absolutely exciting romp through the skies of a war-torn America.

After being ousted by the boys in gray, Belle Boyd took a job offer from the infamous Pinkerton's. She needed the money and the job was a good offer, if a little odd for a first assignment. All she has to do is make sure that the good ship Clementine makes it to port in Louisville without incident. For a woman who has no compunction about shooting a man in the face when the situation calls for it, Belle has no worries about her ability to handle this task. She sets off posthaste and finds out soon enough that the job won't be quite as simple as she thought it would be.

Croggon Hainey has made his living running guns, ammunition, stolen parts, and just about anything else from his home base in the Pacific Northwest. His ship, his baby, the Free Crow has ferried him about ever since the day he nicked her from the Union. Now the Union has stolen her back, changed her name to Clementine and sent her back to the East Coast with a secret cargo that has every hint of being parts for a war machine that will blow the Confederate army off the map. Hainey doesn't really care what the ship is carrying though. He wants it back.

When Belle Boyd and Croggon Hainey collide in pursuit of the twice-stolen ship, some alarming truths emerge about the Union's willingness to go to any lengths to end this drawn-out conflict. What the two will have to decide is how far they are willing to go to achieve their goals, and what those goals truly are.

While this one doesn't have quite the same punch that Boneshaker (Book 1) and Dreadnought (Book 3) had, it was still fun and very engaging. The mid-air airship battles are well written and easy to visualize. I especially enjoyed the description of Belle in the ball-turret, attempting (with some success) to shoot down an enemy airship. Belle is not a woman to take lightly and the reader will have no doubts about that.

I'm also enthusiastically on-board with Priest's decision to feature strong female characters who don't rush to drop their bloomers as soon as the male lead walks into the room. It's a refreshing change of pace and very heartening.

I've lately heard rumbles that Cherie Priest could be the new Queen of Steampunk. If she continues to turn out novels of this caliber, with the striking world-building she's laying out, I think it might end up being a fair assessment.
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