First of a new fantasy trilogy from the author of the splendid Something More Than Night (2013, etc.).
Two hundred and fifty years ago, the Dutch created a mechanical army of “Clakkers”—thinking clockwork beings powered and enslaved by alchemical magic—and now rule the world. Only the French government in exile still resists, from their fortress at Marseilles-in-the-West (Montreal). The powerful Schoonraad family is about to relocate to New Amsterdam (New York) and send their servitor Clakker, Jax, to Pastor Luuk Visser to collect a letter of introduction. Visser, however, secretly a Papist and a French spy whose network has been broken, expects to be arrested momentarily. He gives Jax an antique telescope with instructions to deliver it to an address in New Amsterdam. But during the voyage, the telescope breaks, a peculiar glass bead falls out—and Jax discovers he is no longer a slave. To the north, meanwhile, Vicomtesse Bernice de Laval, the French Talleyrand (spy chief), suspects that one of the king’s closest advisers is a traitor. While secretly studying a captured battle Clakker, which the terms of the current uneasy cease-fire specifically prohibit, the thing gets away, killing her husband and slaughtering dozens. The traitor escapes. Exiled, Bernice makes her way to New Amsterdam, where eventually she will collide with Jax—with profound consequences for both the French and the Dutch. Perhaps holding back for later entries, Tregillis gives few details of the Clakkers’ construction or operation, and the story is curiously slow to get going. But his characters are as convincing as ever, the plotting is beautifully articulated, the tone relentlessly grim and sometimes horrifying. And while the action rarely flags, Tregillis manages to pack in a good deal of philosophical probing.
Not quite yet peak Tregillis, but his fans—and other readers with an interest in dark, intelligent fantasy—will find much to admire here.