Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

The latest installment of Priest’s steampunk series, Clockwork Century, returns to the alternate Civil War–era American landscape she introduced in Boneshaker (2009). Her eccentric protagonist this time is Rector Sherman, who, at 18, has just left the only home he’s ever known, an orphanage just outside a toxic, gas-infested, late-1800s Seattle. Hoping to eke out another few years of existence by selling and using sap, the area’s gas-derived drug of choice, Rector scales Seattle’s imposing walls and seeks out the ruined city’s criminal underworld. Aside from making a living, Rector is also hunting the remains of his old friend, Zeke Wilkes, hoping Zeke’s troublesome ghost will finally let him be. Yet not only is Zeke very much alive but the reunited pair must contend with a cross section of Seattle’s worst elements, including the zombie-like “inexplicables” and a band of sinister gold prospectors. Priest’s narrative has all the compelling ingredients that keep the steampunk subgenre going, including riveting characters; a vividly realized, atmospheric setting; and a well-told story of adventure. –Booklist