I can't get over how good these books are. Priest has an ear for dialogue and a good understanding of human behavior; she builds up compelling, intriguing plots full of action and adventure; she creates vivid scenes and characters. On top of that, she creates a series that's ostensibly steampunk, but is actually an alternate history series instead. There's so much to like here, it's no surprise that I'm tearing through these books like I'm addicted.
With The Inexplicables, Priest falters some. The entire story is told from the point of view of one character, Rector Sherman, who was the young orphan who sent Zeke into the walled city in Boneshaker. Now, he's a full-on sap addict who's far more interested in himself than anyone else. He's not the most likable character, and his self-centeredness leaves him with little loyalty to anyone. He doesn't strike me as an anti-hero, either (his successes have more to do with him being with other people than with anything he does himself), so it puzzles me why Priest chose to have him as our POV character, unless it was to further the point she appears to want to make about the Blight, the sap, and its effect on people. Being an addict, Rector can help her shine a more personal light onto what it means to be addicted to the substance. It doesn't help make him any more sympathetic, though.
The series has been fascinating so far, with each book being a different adventure featuring a different character, but the adventure here is less compelling. This time, the conflict surrounds protecting the walled in city from new invaders, and protecting the surrounding city from the rotters inside. It's all self-contained, with the action compressed into the final hundred-or-so pages, and less time is spent on the antagonists than in previous books, making them caricatures instead of characters. In addition, Priest chooses to include a new supernatural element to the story here, which doesn't really fit in with the overall tone of the previous four books. I'm not going to spoil it, but it wound up being laughable. The story features a lot of rolling-of-the-eyes, not just in the characters, but also in the reader.
I mentioned in my review of Ganymede that there was a character featured in that novel who was intimated as being untrustworthy, and he showed up here in The Inexplicables, too. Priest again suggested that there was something about him not to be trusted, but again, it didn't go anywhere within the story itself. Given that she's been pretty good at foreshadowing in the individual stories, my money's on Priest featuring him in Fiddlehead, the final volume in the series proper. If not, then she's been running a red herring through two books now.
Each book in the series has been a singular adventure featuring (mostly) new characters, and that's true with The Inexplicables, as well, but to me it seems like Priest is building up the series to talk about the Blight. She's also writing about the Civil War, protracted here into a 20-year fight, and while each story stands on its own, overall there's a bigger fight going on, with much larger stakes. I think Fiddlehead will address those issues, and bring them all together into a final conclusion. I'm eager to see how she wraps up the overall story.