Dreadnought by Cherie Priest is a breakneck action filled steampunk title that grabs hold and never lets go. Vinita “Mercy” Lynch is a nurse at the Confederate hospital in Robertson, Virginia. When news of her husband’s death (a Union soldier) arrives it is followed quickly by news of her estranged father’s illness and a request that she visit him in Seattle. With little left holding her at the hospital Mercy packs her few bags and heads West. Of course this wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go horribly horribly wrong and Mercy is constantly besieged by trouble of all varieties.
Audible Frontiers, 2011
I missed out on Clementine’s initial release via Subterranean Press but discovered last week that Audible released an audio version via their Audible Frontiers SFF imprint. Clementine is a novella set in the Clockwork Century universe and centers on two main characters: Captain Croggon Beauregard Heaney (first met in Boneshaker) and former Confederate spy turned Pinkerton detective Maria Isabella Boyd. Clementine focuses on the narratives of these two characters featuring Heaney’s quest to recover his stolen vessel The Free Crow (now christened the titular Clementine) and Maria’s first job as a Pinkerton to ensure the Clementine’s safe arrival at its destination. Of course, not everything goes according to plan for either side…much to the delight of readers. While having read Boneshaker isn’t a requirement for reading Clementine the events that take place prior to the novella, namely the theft of the Free Crow from Captain Heaney and its rechristening as Clementine, are detailed towards Boneshaker’s conclusion. The how and why of it are less important than the fact that it did happen though and new readers (or listeners) will have little trouble jumping aboard with Clementine. Continue reading “Review: Clementine by Cherie Priest”
Bloodshot by Cherie Priest marks what I would consider a significant departure from her earlier work particularly in terms on setting. While some of her work in the past has touched upon urban fantasy tropes, in so much that Boneshaker, despite its nineteenth century setting takes place in an urban environment and the fact that Priest tends to write strong female leads (Belle Boyd, Mercy Lynch, and Briar Wilkes in the Clockwork Century alone), Bloodshot represents Priest’s first full-on urban fantasy outing. Yes, Raylene Pendle AKA Cheshire Red, is a vampire and thief extraordinaire but Priest’s deft handling of character especially Cheshire’s distinct voice save this from the heap of other urban fantasies out there.
So the fact that I finished Bloodshot last week, and listened through the audio version of Clementine means I’ve decided to give over this week to Cherie Priest titles. I’ve snagged Dreadnought as well and will hopefully be finishing that novel soon (especially since I decided to make this all “official” and what not)! For those unfamiliar with Cherie Priest feel free to check out some of my earlier reviews of her work:
Fathom (Strong narrative drive combined with a fascinating use of combined and borrowed mythologies makes for an entertaining modern day fantasy.)
Those Who Went Remain There Still (Still my favorite Priest work. Should be available digitally now. A novel about home and the, sometimes literal, monsters that reside there.)
Boneshaker (The first Clockwork Century novel with strong characters in a vivid alt-history Steampunk zombie-filled version of a downtrodden 19th century Seattle.)
One day I’ll get around to reading the Eden Moore novels (Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Wings to the Kingdom, and Not Flesh For Feathers) as well as Dreadful Skin. Both Eden Moore (a horror influenced, paranormal tinged southern gothic series) and Dreadful Skin (about a nun tracking down a werewolf during the Civil War) sound right up my ally. This time out though I’ll be sticking to her newer work. For those new to Cherie Priest you can find her on the web either on her own site or via her twitter account.
My love for Ms. Priest’s work has been professed before so this review is hardly unbiased. Indeed, Boneshaker is certainly one of the catalysts that sent me on brief dip into the steampunk pool. It is also the only steampunk novel I read this month that was set in America. If my appreciation of Ms. Priest’s work wasn’t enough to predispose me towards liking this novel she went ahead and set it in Seattle which, despite being a city I’ve only visited twice for all too brief a time and despite being born and bread in the shadow of the city that never sleeps, is a place that has a strange place in my heart; I guess it’s a city I guess I’m half in love with (with a gorgeous library that was hit hard by recent budget changes but if you visit you should definitely check out!).
Of course the Seattle of Boneshaker is not the Seattle we know. It is city that has become a wasteland thanks to the terrible Boneshaker built by Dr. Leviticus Blue which went on an uncontrolled rampage and somehow unleashed a hidden pocket of deadly Blight gas that not only kills all it touches, but brings those it kills back as flesh-craving rotters (a history told much better by the book’s introduction available over at The Clockwork Century). The book opens up years later with Leviticus’ wife, Briar and son Ezekial (Zeke) living in the Outskirts; a town that arose around the now walled-up Seattle. Briar and Zeke now go by the last name Wilkes, Briar’s maiden name, which has the advantage (for Zeke at least) in that Briar’s father is something of a folk hero amongst the poor, disrepute, and downtrodden of the Outskirts. The pair scrapes by, at least until Zeke hares off to the Blight filled Seattle in order to clear the name of both his father and grandfather, who the not-so downtrodden believe was a criminal. It isn’t long before Briar and copious amounts of adventure and excitement, follow.
I’ve been waiting quite a while to read Those Who Went Remain There Still which I ordered for the library earlier in 2008. It was on backorder with B&T for a while and we only received our copy a week or so ago. I’m glad we finally did as the story (novella?) was a brisk entertaining read that cast a straightforward monster story in a fascinating light. In a sparse 175 pages Priest manages to craft not only a cast of believable characters, including the historical Daniel Boone, but a surprisingly detailed setting drenched in a kind of wilderness gothic. Despite the paucity of words Priest manages to tell a tale that few writers could match with twice the word count.
Continue reading “Review: Those Who Went Remain There Still by Cherie Priest”
Cherie Priest is an author better known for Southern Gothic fiction and, despite its Florida locale, Fathom is a slight deviation from that area. Fathom certainly makes use of Priest’s familiarity with that genre but places more emphasis on the fantastic elements and overarching plot than on the setting and atmosphere of the story. In essence Priest trades elements of horror for elements of the fantastic to craft a story more in vein with Charles de Lint than say Edgar Allan Poe. Read on for more…