Cherie Priest
Fiddlehead Cover

Fiddlehead - Goodbye Clockwork Century


Fiddlehead is the fifth and, according to the author Cherie Priest, final novel in her "Clockwork Century Novels". Scientist and inventor Gideon Bradley has created the first "Calculating Engine" which he has put to the task of calculating who will win the American Civil War which in this alternate reality has been waging in a virtual stalemate for 20 years. The shocking answer is, the zombies. That's right, because a drug created in the Washington territories is creating zombies, and this drug is sweeping through the war ravaged lands.

That being said, there are no zombies in this zombie novel. This is a novel about trying to get the warring factions to see that continuing the war will endanger the entire world. Matters are not helped by the fact that there is an evil war monger trying to sell the union an "ultimate weapon", which is ironically made up of the poison drug in its original gas form.

It is with a heavy heart I say goodbye to this alternate world. Through 6 novels/novellas we saw the Clockwork Century unfold before us, not through a single hero/heroine, but instead through a series of individuals. Each novel highlighted different characters, and the main character of one novel may only be a secondary novel in the next book. This allowed the series to stay fresh.

In Fiddlehead we are reintroduced to Maria "Belle" Boyd, a former confederate spy and now a detective for the Pinkerton Agency out of Chicago. Belle was first introduced in Ms. Priest's novella Clementine. Maria is easily the most complicated character of the series. Her loyalties by birth are to the South and their slaveholding beliefs, and as a Confederate spy she actively participated in furthering the cause of the south. In this novel we find that Belle left for Chicago not by choice, but because after marrying and Yankee soldier who was ultimately killed in the war, the Southern leaders no longer trust her and her motives and she is forced to accept the job with the Northern detective agency or starve in the South. Her interactions with other characters are a complicated one to say the least. For those who read Clementine, she showed in that novel that her beliefs in slaveholding are minimal but her love for her native land is undeniable.

As is true of most of Cherie Priest's Clockwork series, the female characters are the most interesting and this is more than true with Fiddlehead. The villain in the novel is none other than Katharine Haymes, who is so evil, if she was able to grow a mustache, would have been twirling it the entire novel while laughing maniacally and petting a hairless cat while sitting in her secret lair. There is no cat, no mustache and no maniacal laughter, but there is a lair.

I will be sorry to see Cherie Priest leaving the Clockwork Century, but if she had to end it, I'm glad she ended it with Fiddlehead.