Premise: After years of smuggling the blight gas used to make the drug sap, air pirate Andan Cly has decided to become a legitimate businessman. Unfortunately, the money paying for his first job comes from a sap dealer in Seattle. Luckily, this trip to New Orleans comes with a good amount of money, with Andan doubling up on pay by taking a job when he gets to his destination. His employer in New Orleans happens to be an ex-girlfriend and brothel madam Josephine Early.
Andan has no idea what kind of job he is getting himself into in New Orleans. He only knows that it will help cover the costs to retrofit his airship for legal shipping and it might give him a chance at closure in the relationship with Josephine that he never really got. When he arrives to pilot the ship, it turns out it isn’t an airship at all. He is to pilot a massive submersible from Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf through enemy lines in order to use its weapons capabilities to swing the tides in the war, assuming he and his men can survive the trip.
Facing his past will be difficult with his future back in Seattle. This set of jobs might be the break he needs to make a good amount of money, get the necessary supplies for Seattle to expand, and settle down with his new flame with a new business. This is all assuming he doesn’t die in battle or by sinking the Ganymede to the bottom of the ocean.
Themes: Ganymede is a romance story between Andan Cly and the past love in Josephine Early and present and future love in Briar Wilkes. We get to see Andan and Josephine work out their problems of the past, but also get to see how those problems and resolutions might affect their future relationships.
Letting go of the past is a major theme in Ganymede not just for Andan and his relationship with Josephine, but also as Andan makes the attempt to get out of the life of piracy shipping drugs and into the legitimate business of setting up Seattle as a shipping hub.
Ganymede also attempts to bring the issue of discrimination to light through Josephine. She is a mixed race prostitute but has connections which come in handy in a New Orleans bordered by Confederate states with a penchant for racism. One of her prostitutes also has a secret that we see an issue in modern discrimination topics.
Pros: With some thoughtful character development, Ganymede gives the reader not only some great character interactions, but it also elaborates on some familiar characters from previous books in the series in Andan Cly, Briar Wilkes, Mercy Lynch, Ranger Korman, and more. Josephine Early stands out as a strong female protagonist who is not only successful in spite of her circumstances, but also who is a leader of the common people. Something Cherie Priest does well is creating multiple settings in the same novel that help define each other through contrast.
Cons: As the third full novel in the series, the plot for Ganymede was thinner than Boneshaker or Dreadnought. Especially at the main climax of the entire story, things felt like they just fell into place and nothing was really going to go wrong. Perhaps it was a failure to create tension, but I got the sense that no one was really in danger. In fact, it almost felt like the last few chapters were just lopped off the end. The primary climax seemed more like a minor one, leaving me with a desire for the stakes to be raised but left hanging.
Recommendations: My recommendation for Ganymede is that you at least read Boneshaker first, if not Boneshaker and Dreadnought. Ganymede creates some depth to characters from those previous novels, but that background will probably be helpful. The character development is very well executed for the main characters, even compared to the previous books, which is good because this book is more of a romance than the more action-packed predecessors. While thin on plot compared to its predecessors, Ganymede narrows the focus on a couple of the characters in the Clockwork Century series while bringing back some familiar faces in the periphery.