READ WITH CAUTION! THE SUMMARIES FOR BOOKS TWO AND THREE FROM THE AUTHORS WEBSITE HAVE SPOILERS.
You may now read on…
Gail Carriger is another one of my purely chance discoveries, though this one happened over a year ago. Carriger’s “The Parasol Protectorate” is full of romance, adventure, humour and oh so good, steampunk action. (But first of all I must define steampunk. No, not because I’ve decided to become an English dictionary but because the term steampunk is inately important to the readers understanding of the world Carriger has created.)
Steampunk: A sub-genre of science fiction or alternate reality. A steampunk novel is usually set in a world where harnessing the power of steam is required to power technology, a reson why nearly all steampunk novels are set in a world/era not unlike the Victorian era or late 1800s. A steampunk novel may also have other elements of the fantasical (such as the lycan and vampires in Carriger’s series).
So basically you can imagine Sherlock Holmes with cooler gadgets.
However, creating a steampunk world is not as easy as it sounds. For one there is a lot of research involved in the scientific aspect of things, since technology is extremely important to this genre, and nearly all gadgets make use of steam energy.
Not an easy thing to do, believe me I have tried.
But Carriger makes the use, technical and functional aspects of this technology blend seemlessly into the novel and I’m very proud of her for this.
(CHAOS: You say that like your opinion matters. It doesn’t, the woman’s a bestselling author.
RIKA: Don’t you have a mouse to chase or something?
CHAOS: I’m just saying.)
Erhm…yes…well back to the review at hand. As I was saying, Carriger creates a believable world that a reader can imagine as one that truly exists as one parallel to our own. One I wouldn’t mind living in, for that matter.
The second most important first impressiom, for me, is the tone of a novel. Carriger writes like I do! Her characters talk like I expect mine to, so it wasn’t hard to imagine them in my own mind. Plus, it was a nice personal assurance for me to a read a published author who had a similar tone to my own – it made my dreams seem less far fetched!
All three of Carriger’s novels follows the central character, Alexia Tarabotti, and a reaccuring cast if secondary characters.
The first of Carriger’s steampunk series novels is Soulless:
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she is being rudely attacked by a vampire to whom she has not been properly introduced! Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire, and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
Alexia is a character that I liked right from the start, flaws and all. She fun, quirky, intelligent and preoccupied with the size of her nose, which is distinctly Italian according to her. She’s also a bit of a Victorian era techno geek and enjoys tinkering with the latest gadgetry. She’s immediately seperated from her sisters, both of whom are more occupied with finding a husband and her mother, who can be a bit daft. And her stepfather, who is in a word clueless. Alexia can also be a bit reckless, and though she does not seek to put herself in danger, danger seems to stalk her.
This is entirely to due with Alexia preternatural, or soulless state. A soulless is someone who is able to negate a supernatural beings powers by touching them, making them mortal and as such, Alexia presents a threat to many of the supernatural beings – vampires and werewolves – in England.
Luckily, however, Alexia is protected by the swoonworthy Lord Maccon, a werewolf Alpha and a member of the BUR, the Bureau of Unnatural Registry. The BUR is investigating vampire dissappearances in London and since Alexia is being stalked by vampires, Lord Maccon takes it upon himself to protect her. (It has nothing to do with the fact that he finds her attractive. No, indeed. *eye roll* Men can be so predictable.)
However, let me say that Alexia and Lord Maccon do NOT hit it off. In fact, despite being attracted to each other, both finds the other infuriating. (I can’t inagine that it has anything to due with Alexia’ s stubborness and Maccon’s tendency to boss everyone around.)
Another great thing about this novel, is the fact that we do not just get glimpses of Alexia and Maccon’s situations, but very fleshed out descriptions of the secondary cast as well, especially Maccon’s scientifically inclined werewolf beta, Professor Lyall and Alexia’s gay vampire friend, Lord Akeldama. These descriptions made the secondary characters that much more real and interesting to me, especially considering they will make extensive appearances in the sequel.
Best of all, this book (and the others in the series) has some seriously outrageous COMEDY. Those of you who know me, know how much I like a good laugh. Best of all it was my kind of comedy, the kind that made me smile inside and laugh out loud at the same time. The not so fleeting kind of humour, that is so tied to the characters that you can;t help but smile every time they make an appearance.
The second book in the series, Changeless, has a similar feel and furthers our knowledge of the supernatural and preternatural worlds Carriger has created:
Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears – leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria. But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.
As the summary states, Alexia and Lord Maccon are now married but since most of us knew this would happen I don`t feel it’s too much of a spoiler. On the other hand, without giving away too much of the plot let me just say that this novel focuses more on the relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon, giving up a glimpse of married life, than the previous. It also has more drama, especially towards the end.
Unlike the first book which forcused on the vampire situation in London, this book focuses nearly solely on the werewolf situation in Scotland. We also learn a lot more about Lord Maccon and his family, plus see romantic developments for Alexia’s hat-crazy BFF, Ivy. (And yes, it is very dramatic.)
Unfortunately, that’s all I can say about this novel, well other than the fact that it is very vital to the overall storyline of the series, and very much worth the read.
You’ll also want to have the third book, Blameless, nearby when you finish book two because it ends with a HUGE emotional cliffhanger. (Try not to read the summary if your afraid of spoilers.) :
Quitting her husband’s house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season. Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London’s vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead. While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires — and they’re armed with pesto.
I was so afraid to include this summary because of spoilers, but I couldn’t really avoid it considering any way of summarizing would include some spoilers. After the emotional rollercoster of an ending in book two, the opening of this book seems tame in comparison.
Let me say that we get to see – or read about – a lot of alchohol consumption in this book, along with uncovering more mysteries of Alexia past and circumstances as a preternatural.
By now, your all probably wondering what “the mighty parasol” is? Well, my fellow readers, the parasol is what Alexia uses to bash people over the head. Like a knight would never go into battle without his sword, Alexia is certainly not about to waltz into danger without her parasol. This little parasol also gets an upgrade in the second book of the series, so now it’s only slightly less dangerous than a weapon of mass destruction in Alexia’s hands. 😉
On the whole the three books were very, very good reads but I did have a few minor quibbles. For one, I found the name changes from first name to titles a little jarring. For instance, Alexia’s name switches between “Alexia” and “Lady Maccon” many, many times in the same page. This is not even because she is talking to another character who is addressing her as Lady Maccon, while the narrator calls her Alexia. No, this is the narrator jumping back and forth. (I did get used to this after a while, but I still think that I shouldn’t have had to.) Also, I felt a little baited with the mystery of Alexia’s late father’s life. It is clear that his life will play an important role in the series, but very little details about said life are forthcoming.
Also for those looking for a purely romantic read, this is more sci-fi that romance. You will often find yourself reading chapters and chapters of Alexia, with very little news of Lord Maccon. (Though there is more Lord Maccon time in the third novel, and very good Lord Maccon time at that.)
Nonetheless, regardless of the flaws, I still recommend the “Parasol Protectorate” series with extreme confidence and hope you will give it a chance. Trust me, you will enjoy it! 🙂
But if you still don’t believe me, then I guess you could wait for the graphic novels to come out. What? Did I forget to mention? Oh yes, according to this blog , the rights to the first three novels have been sold to Yen Press to be made into graphic novels. However, as I am still waiting on more information from the author herself, I’m going to hold of the celebration. But if it turns out to be true, then there is only more to love about Alexia and her world.
–Rika Ashton (aka The Happy Series Reviewer)
P.S: Read the author’s bio. It’s hilarious!
P.P.S: The next book in the series are Heartless (June 2011) and Timeless (Nov 2011).
P.P.P.S: Wanna play a game? Click here to play the Soulless‘ dress up game. And for more fun and games, check out the author’s website. She answers a lot – and I mean a lot – of questions on her FAQs page, so if you feel I haven’t told you enough about the characters to give the series a try, this is the place to go!
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January 13, 2011 | Categories: Book Reviews, Favourite Authors | Tags: blameless, book reviews, changeless, gail carriger, heartless, historical romance, lycan, parasol protectorate, romance, soulless, victorian, victorian romance, werewolves | 7 Comments