cover image The Mechanical

The Mechanical

Ian Tregillis. Orbit, $17 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-24800-6

Tregillis (Something More Than Night) launches a series with this superb alternate history filled with clockwork men and ethical questions on the nature of free will. The Calvinist Dutch empire, with the help of the mechanical soldiers (“Clakkers”) that are imbued with intelligence and enslaved through magic, has been dominant since defeating the French in the 17th century. Two centuries later, their only opponents are small French and Papal outposts in the New World. Against this background, French spymaster Berenice Charlotte de Mornay-Périgord, Vicomtesse de Laval, attempts to manage her secret agents abroad. One of those agents is Father Luuk Visser, a Catholic priest undercover as a pastor in the Hague, who knows he’s soon going to be exposed. He uses one of the Clakkers, Jax, to smuggle an item across the Atlantic. As Berenice, Luuk, and Jax go on their separate journeys (only briefly intersecting), they uncover multiple dastardly plots, learn terrifying secrets, and have to cope with knowing that all three of them have destroyed innocent lives. Tregillis’s complex setting is elegantly delivered, and the rich characters and gripping story really make this tale soar. Agent: Kay McCauley, Pimlico Agency. (Mar.)