This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

17 March, 2014

REVIEW: FIDDLEHEAD

Cover art by Angelo Rinaldi

FIDDLEHEAD
A CLOCKWORK CENTURY NOVEL/
CLOCKWORK CENTURY BOOK 5
BY
CHERIE PRIEST

ISBN: 978-1-447-22558-4
Pages: 366
Publisher: Tor UK
Published: 21 November 2013

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

Ex-spy ‘Belle Boyd’ is retired – more or less. Retired from spying on the Confederacy anyway. Her short-lived marriage to a Union navy boy cast suspicion on those Southern loyalties, so her mid-forties found her unemployed, widowed and disgraced. Until her life-changing job offer from the staunchly Union Pinkerton Detective Agency.

When she’s required to assist Abraham Lincoln himself, she has to put any old loyalties firmly aside – for a man she spied against twenty years ago. Lincoln’s friend Gideon Bardsley, colleague and ex-slave, is targeted for assassination after the young inventor made a breakthrough. Fiddlehead, Bardsley’s calculating engine, has proved the world is facing an extraordinary threat. Meaning it's not the time for civil war.

Now Bardsley and Fiddlehead are in great danger as forces conspire to keep this potentially unifying secret, the war moving and the money flowing. With spies from both camps gunning for her, can even the notorious Belle Boyd hold the war-hawks at bay?


   With this book we're coming to the end of The Clockwork Century series. In some small ways that changes how I look at the book. I've loved this series from the first book (links to reviews), and I want it to end well. I was never really worried that it wouldn't though, Priest has written a great series, that I hold as a must-read among recent Alternate History works.
    Like the other books in this series this is not a direct sequel to those that have preceded it. It does however follow quite nicely on from Clementine, and there is  plenty of little tidbits that point back to previous volumes. None of them are really essential reading, and Priest is good at giving the new reader an idea of what has gone before.  But there's no doubt that it will give you a richer reading experience if you are familiar with at least some of what happened previously.

   Returning from Clementine is the heroine, Belle Boyd, who is given some more depth here than in her previous outing. She is a great character, and a really good spy/action heroine. Boyd would have been adequate as a sole main character, but she's not alone here. There are other main characters that we get to follow, Abraham Lincoln is one of them.
   Lincoln being a main character is a sign that we are getting a more political story this time. We are at the high reaches of government, and that means that the stakes are higher than they have been before in the series. Things that have been building up are now coming to a head.

   This starts out intriguingly, with a sort of recap, or at least a good reminder of what has come before. From there it builds slowly, at times you want to drag the story forwards. Don't get me wrong, it never gets boring, and neither does it feel like you are reading filler material.It's just a story that has a deliberately slow pace. One that actually fits very well with what is going on. It can be a bit frustrating at times though, you really want things to happen now, you're at the edge of your seat waiting for things to happen, but this really drives you to read on. And when things start happening your patience, or what little is left of it, is rewarded with an excellent series of events.

   Some of the slow burn of the plot continues throughout, but there is a lot of action interspersed with the other developments and there are events that create a lot of suspense. A lot of the suspense is created by the reader not knowing how this is going to end. Although you assume the good guys will win, it is never clear what the cost will have been when this story ends. And it is never clear who will be making it to the end of the book either, no-one is really essential here and the body count has the potential to be really high.

   Although I am not a big fan of open-ended series I feel this book is a bit hampered by it's "end of an era" feel, but that was pretty inevitable seeing as this is the end of the series. It's not even really a problem with the book itself, it's a problem with the reader - in this case me. I had a sort of separation anxiety before I started reading this book, I even put off starting it for quite a while. In hindsight I need not have done that, and in some ways it made finishing it more of a melancholy experience than it had to be. But now that I am at the end of it, I can say that I am very satisfied with the stories that Priest has shared with me as a reader. This is an excellent Steampunk series with a strong Alternate History component.

   This is an excellent book, and I am confident it will satisfy those that have taken a liking to Priest's Clockwork Century series. It is well written, with a very well developed, but slow-burning, storyline. There's plenty of action here, and political intrigue on the top level. Somewhat of a political thriller with a good dose of action.
   It will work as a standalone, but it is definitely a book that works best as the end of an era in the alternate history of the United States. Both Steampunk and Alternate History fans should do themselves a favour and check out this series. For Priest's fans this is of course a must, but I assume most of them have already finished this one.

REVIEWS: A Clockwork Century reviews.

LINKS: Cherie Priest  Pan Macmillan (Tor UK)  Tor UK Blog

2 comments:

  1. On the standalone angle, gotta disagree. I never read Clementine (at least until after finishing the rest of the series) and I was always a bit bugged by knowing I was missing SOMETHING.

    But good review, there are not enough fans of this series around.

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    1. I agree with waht you are saying about missing something. It was what I meant by "But there's no doubt that it will give you a richer reading experience if you are familiar with at least some of what happened previously."
      I still think you can read, and enjoy this if you have read nothing else from the series though. -But I suspect you are like me, -a completist who wants to get everything. :-)

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