Review: “The Inexplicables (The Clockwork Century #5)” by Cherie Priest

Title: “The Inexplicables (The Clockwork Century #5)”

Author: Cherie Priest

Genre: Adult, Steampunk/Alternate History, Zombies

Publication Date: November 13, 2012 (Tor/Macmillan – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: Rector “Wreck ‘em” Sherman was orphaned as a toddler in the Blight of 1863, but that was years ago. Wreck has grown up, and on his eighteenth birthday, he’ll be cast out out of the orphanage.

And Wreck’s problems aren’t merely about finding a home. He’s been quietly breaking the cardinal rule of any good drug dealer and dipping into his own supply of the sap he sells. He’s also pretty sure he’s being haunted by the ghost of a kid he used to know—Zeke Wilkes, who almost certainly died six months ago. Zeke would have every reason to pester Wreck, since Wreck got him inside the walled city of Seattle in the first place, and that was probably what killed him. Maybe it’s only a guilty conscience, but Wreck can’t take it anymore, so he sneaks over the wall.

The walled-off wasteland of Seattle is every bit as bad as he’d heard, chock-full of the hungry undead and utterly choked by the poisonous, inescapable yellow gas. And then there’s the monster. Rector’s pretty certain that whatever attacked him was not at all human—and not a rotter, either. Arms far too long. Posture all strange. Eyes all wild and faintly glowing gold and known to the locals as simply “The Inexplicables.”

In the process of tracking down these creatures, Rector comes across another incursion through the wall — just as bizarre but entirely attributable to human greed. It seems some outsiders have decided there’s gold to be found in the city and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get a piece of the pie unless Rector and his posse have anything to do with it.

☆: 4/5 stars – a great way to round up all of the characters in this series so far, and bring them one of their biggest battles yet!

Review: Okay, so I admit I missed the last installment in this series previous to this one, but I was really relieved to find that I was able to pick right back up again and sink back into the world that is the “Clockwork Century” series without feeling lost or confused. This is definitely one of the best volumes yet, bringing together everyone from all of the previous books and novellas, and really making this world feel full and entirely whole. While I did have a few gripes, “The Inexplicables” delivers wonderfully, and leaves us on a a semi-cliffhanger, promising us more. At least, I hope that’s what that epilogue was, anyway.

This isn’t just Rector’s story – for the first time, Priest was able to tell three stories at once with ridiculous ease. We have Rector, the last of the “Blight Generation”, striking out on his own for the first time. We have the story of the “Inexplicables” – creatures from myth that wander their way into the walled city of Seattle. And finally, we have the story of what’s left of a broken city uniting into one people against an invading bunch of marauders looking to take Seattle for their own. At first, it’s hard to reconcile all of these different arcs and sub-plots – how do they fit in with each other? The answer is: really, quite easily. And the way Priest pulled this off really, really impressed me. And if anything, it makes me not only want to read the previous books and novellas (along with what I missed) again, but makes me rabid for another book in this series.

My biggest problem, I suppose, was the really, really slow pacing at the beginning, when we’re introduced to Rector, his addiction, and getting booted from the Orphanage once he’s reached the age of majority. It’s a bit plodding, and at times, it feels like there’s some infodumping going on (especially when it comes to how sap has played its part in his life, and in the economy outside of the Wall, etc), but once Rector finally gets into Seattle, things pick up, and everything more or less smooths itself out – until we come to Angeline and the boys trying to figure out what these “Inexplicables” are. Then it’s a bit ploddy again, until we see how not only the creatures got in, but seeing a totally new threat to the city from the outside. So, I guess you could say that the transition between the sub-plots to make up the larger plot of this book were a little rough, but once the transitions have finished, everything is really smooth sailing until the climax and resolution near the end of the book.

And to the zombie fans of this series – a warning. You’re not going to get a lot of hot zombie (rotter) action here, though we do get a rather nasty little look at how Yaozu’s been running the city from the Station – but I won’t spoil you any further there. Just know that the rotters, while easy to make, really don’t appear in this book for more than a chapter here or there. This book is more about the said mysterious “Inexplicables” (whose real identity, once revealed, made me impressed that Priest was able to work in such creatures in such a multicultural mythological fashion as she did zombies), and not only trying to find out more about them, but to save them from themselves, and from those who would storm the city to take it for their own.

While we do have some new faces in this book (Rector, the most obvious), we still have all of our favorites from previous books (Zeke, Huey/Houjin, Briar, Miss Angeline, Miss Mercy, and Cly) helping along the story at its most important points. It was really gratifying to see how much screentime Miss Angeline got in this book – she was part of the larger cast for most of the previous books but never got a lot of the spotlight until this particular book. We learn more about pre-Blight Seattle as well as how the city name came to be, and more about Maynard Wilkes (Briar’s father, Zeke’s grandfather) and how he became the Hero of Seattle during the Blight itself. We get a lot of backstory details that we only got in bits and drops in previous books, and they way they were presented weren’t quite as infodumpy as they were with setting up Rector’s character, which felt better to read and was easier to slip into, which also made the world with its backstory more complete.

While the fight for Seattle isn’t as grand as it could have been, I think the way Priest crafted things was for the best. It sets things up and leaves a lot of room for future bickering with outsiders over control of the city, and it was nice to see the Doornails, Chinamen, and those from the Vaults really come together to unite against this outside threat. The imagery is just as rich in this book, and really all comes together within the last 2/3rds of the book, making it a really surreal (but awesome) experience.

And now I want that next book, if just for that epilogue alone.

So if you’re new to this series, you still might want to start at book one, “Boneshaker”, but if you’ve already read the first book and might have missed a book or two inbetween wherever you left off and this book, I don’t think you’ll feel too confused as to what’s happening and who everyone is, as long as you know about some of the past main protagonists. “The Inexplicables” is out now from Tor in North America, so be sure to check it out! It’s one of my best of 2012 for sure, and its place on that list is well deserved indeed.


2 thoughts on “Review: “The Inexplicables (The Clockwork Century #5)” by Cherie Priest

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 28 | birth of a new witch.

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