Posts tagged “lycan

Gail Carriger and the Mighty Parasol

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?

book cover of   Soulless    (Parasol Protectorate, book 1)  by  Gail CarrigerAlexia 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.

book cover of   Changeless    (Parasol Protectorate, book 2)  by  Gail CarrigerThe 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.

book cover of   Blameless    (Parasol Protectorate, book 3)  by  Gail CarrigerI 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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Lydia Dare: The Dynamic Duo with a Terrific Trilogy, Plus One

If my title doesn’t intrigue you, then these novels will. Lydia Dare is an awesome writing team of two, that I happened to discover – purely by chance – at my public library. I was in one of my reading slumps, you know those episodes when you feel like you’ve read every good book that has been published and everything else you’ve picked up recently has been pure, uhm, garbage. This isn’t true of course, because of course I haven’t read every good book in existence, but it feels like it nonetheless.

So for me, finding a Lydia Dare novel – or I should say novels – was a breath of fresh air, plus chocolate cake!

Let me just say that these two ladies can write, I mean really write. Try as I might, I found no dry spells whatsoever in any of their books – since they have only four so far, and I’ve devoured all of them I can say this with some confidence. And they write their heroes as real ALPHAs, not those jerks who boss the heroine around half the book because they think its the manly thing to do, but real genuine ALPHAs. The cool kind that make you swoon and hope that one of them will catch you. 😀

book cover of   A Certain Wolfish Charm   by  Lydia DareLydia Dare’s debut trilogy about the Westfield brothers begins with the oldest bro, Simon. The first novel, A Certain Wolfish Charm (cute title, by the way) goes something like this:

The rules of Regency Society can be beastly – especially when you’re a werewolf. Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor has spent his entire life creating scandal and mayhem. It doesn’t help his wolfish temper that since he’s rich, powerful, and sinfully handsome, the town is willing to overlook his outrageous behavior. Lily Rutledge has a wild streak of her own. When she turns to Simon for help, he falls for her immediately. For Simon is drawn to the fearless Lily more powerfully than the moon…

This summary from Fantasic Fiction is missing some important details, like Lily’s and Simon’s ward, Oliver, being the catalyst for drawing them together and cause of much drama throughout the story. Again there is also some descrepency between whether the novel is a Regency or Victorian read. Amazon states Victorian, but I’m inclined to disagree with them because everything within the novel says Regency, albeit late in the Regency era.

A Certain Wofish Charm certainly has a lot going for it: an strong, intelligent and very likeable heroine with a manipulative (but in a very good way) best friend who has HOT brothers, an equally awesome hero with equally HOT brothers, and a totally cute and at times annoying preteen ward. I don’t know how many of you guys will agree, but as a female romance reader so much about whether of not I read the novel has to do with the character of the heroine. I have to like her nearly right off the bat in some way or I probably won’t enjoy the novel. Likewise, the hero has to be equally likable and NOT A JERK, or if he is somewhat a jerk then the heroine has to be strong enough to put him in his place as is the case in this book.

Simon has moments of jerkishness, but the good thing about Lily is that she doesn’t put up with him. Let me say I really, really hated Simon when he threatened to seperate Lily and Oliver. Even though both Simon and Lily are related to Oliver – Oliver’s father was Simon’s cousin and his mom was Lily’s sister – let me make it known that it has been Lily who has been taking care of her nephew Oliver ever since he was orphaned. Simon, who is the boy’s legal guardian, doesn’t really see him or contact him except to send them money for Oliver. Of course, Simon does have a very good reason for the threatened seperation, since he believes Oliver is dangerous to Lily now that he’s hit puberty and is becoming a full lycan (a werewolf, but the characters in the novel consider this a derogatory slang, I can’t imagine why after the Twilight fiasco *insert sarcasm*). However, Lily doesn’t know about Oliver’s – or Simon’s – lycan heritage and Simon doesn’t explain, despite agreeing that Lily is an intelligent woman who cares for Oliver. Yes, Simon, that is wonderful reasoning *insert more sarcasm*.

But Simon is a man in love, who doesn’t know he’s in love, and doesn’t always act rationally.  

So, of course, it’s up to the great cast of supporting characters to bring these two love birds together. Simon’s middle bro, William and Lily BFF, Prisca take it upon themselves to see these two wed, by any means necessary. William does everything to get Simon to realize his feelings for Lily, including staged jealousies, while Prisca goal in life is to get Simon to compromise her BFF and get them married. (Read to see who has the better plan…) Will and Prisca plans are spiced up by hints of their own shared history and hilarious bickering. This added to the mysterious disappearance of the youngest brother Benjamin and the appearance of Simon’s mother makes for an excellent read!

We learn all about Ben’s reason for disappearing in his book, the second in the trilogy, Tall, Dark and Wolfish:

The reckless, rakish younger brother of a powerful duke, Lord Benjamin Westfield transforms into a wolf under the light of the full moon – until one fateful evening when he doesn’t change and his life is shattered. Fearing he may never be able to change again, Benjamin sets out for Scotland in search of a witch who can heal his inner beast. The noble werewolf is drawn to the beautiful young woman, but what does he have to offer in this broken state?

Unlike Simon, who’s quick to anger in the best of circumstances, Ben seems more gentle. There’s a lot of confusion in the starting because Ben’s lost his ability to transform into a lycan during the full moon, but with some advice from a lycan senior he’s off to Scotland to find a witch to cure him. Of course, his vision of the witch is that she will be old, with wiry grey hair, a hooked nose and a crackling laugh. book cover of   Tall, Dark and Wolfish   by  Lydia Dare

Elspeth is anything but. For one, she younger than Ben’s imagines, doesn’t have a hooked nose or crackling laugh. She’s also a part of a coven of witches who foresaw Ben’s arrival long before he set foot in Scotland. Finally, Elspeth is also the bastard daughter of the witch that Ben was initially suppose to see. Of course, while Elspeth’s bastard status is held against her by some, she’s lucky to have her coven, some members who are also high-and-mighty in society.

Elspeth’s fellow convenors are not so happy to see Ben because they fear he will take Elspeth away from Scotland, thus breaking their coven. So their are some machinations on their part to keep Ben and Elspeth under constant survelliance and to prevent them from falling in love. These coven ladies are an awesome cast of characters with equally awesome powers. So finding himself nearly lit on fire is just another day of courtship in Ben’s life.

But, alas, love shall find a way…and it helps that the coven witches are not 100% against the idea as they may like to think.

Like the novel before it, Tall, Dark and Wolfish also has an intriguing subplot which reveals more about Elspeth and Ben’s individual pasts and keeps the main plot moving. I cried a little when I read and thought about Elspeth’s mom’s past. If was heartbreaking and completely unfair due to the actions of a singular person. But that is enough about that, as I shall leave that for you to discover.

Finally, the final book in the trilogy concludes with Will’s story in The Wolf Next Door:

Rogue, Rake.Werewolf. Years ago on a full moon, Lord William Westfield gave way to his inner beast and nearly ruined young Prisca Hawthorne. Knowing he can never trust himself in the arms of the woman he loves, he throws himself into a debauched lifestyle. When Westfield discovers he has a rival for Prisca’s love, he decides if she’s going to marry a Lycan it damn well better be him. But time is running out as Prisca’s other suitor takes an instant and potentially fatal dislike to Westfield.

book cover of   The Wolf Next Door   by  Lydia DareYou gotta love the way the minds of the Westfield brother’s work. Despite helping Simon discover love in the first book, Will is very dense when it comes to his own lovelife. Will and Prisca have been in love since forever, and being neighbours they’ve had a lot of opportunities to do something about it. Will, of course is too afraid of hurting Prisca as a lycan and isn’t sure how she feels about him, while Prisca doesn’t make a move because she’s not sure Will requits her love.

Their’s is a mutual love, but neither seems to comprehend this until Captain Dashiel enters the picture. The new lycan just drives Will crazy with jealousy by spending too much time, in Will’s opinion, with Prisca. Prisca, on the other hand now has time to examine her feelings for Will and realizes that since she cannot seem to feel anything for Dash, who is very, very, very handsome, she may never overcome her feelings for Will.

Like it’s predessecor’s, their is a lot of manipulation on the part of the secondary characters, namely Prisca’s brothers who know she loves Will and that Will loves her and thus, take it upon themselves to see her wed. Purely, unselfish of them of course, their motives have nothing to do with the fact that with Prisca gone, no one will boss them around anymore. Yes, purely unselfish. *eye roll*  

The third book focuses a lot more of the romance between the central characters than the first two. And although, the first two books are very romantic, the shared history between Will and Prisca make this book a lot more so.

This concludes the Lydia Dare trilogy.

But, wait! What’s this? There is one more book, you say, becuase you bothered to do the addition in my title and are now worried that if there are only three novels I need to retake elementary school math.

Fortunately, the addition in my title is correct. There are in fact four books to be reviewed today… 

The fourth lycan book, though not about a Westfield brother, is linked to the series nonetheless. Lydia Dare’s fourth novel, The Taming of the Wolf is Dashiel’s story, who you’ll know from the third book and Caitrin’s, who is one of Elspeth’s coven sisters:

Lord Dashiel Thorpe has fought his true nature his entire life, but whenever the moonlight proves too powerful, Dashiel is unable to control the werewolf within him. It is on one such moonlit night that Dashiel accidentally bites the beautiful Scottish witch, Caitrin McLeod. Though now bound to him irrevocably, Cait decides that she wants nothing to do with him. When she flees to her native Scotland, Dashiel has no choice but to follow her and convince her that it was nothing short of destiny that has bound them together body and soul.

Dash and Caitrin meet at the Westfield estate, when Dash accidentally bites Cait and bonds himself to her. Cait who knows only basic facts about lycans and not the significance of Dash’s bite and thinks it was both a rude and unwarranted attack, flees to Scotland and her home. Dash, of course, does know the significance of what’s he’s done – after a while – and flees after her. (Dash does have another reason for going to Scotland, but considers being able to follow Cait a nice bonus in his plans.)Cover of Taming Of the Wolf by Lydia Dare

And so the chase ensues. Dash does catch up with Cait along the journey, but she ditches him through sheer ingenuity and a sleeping potion. Added adventures and encounters during Cait and Dash’s journey to Scotland only intensify Dash’s need to begin courting Cait, especially when Cait old suitor’s shows up.

Cait, who is the coven seer, and thus, able to see the future of those around her (not her own though) is sure, 100%, that Alec her old suitor is not for her. On the other hand, she is not able to see anything about Dash – which for me set off wedding bells right from the start – and this confuses Cait to no end.

Unlike the three novels before it, their is less manipulation on the parts of the secondary characters in this novel. But we get the added bonus, and pain, of unrequited love for Alec. Poor Alec. 😦

I liked Alec, and so does Cait as surely as she knows he isn’t for her, but for someone else who he will soon come to realize he loves. So there is hope!

The interesting thing about these Lydia Dare novels is that they are most entirely without an actual villain. Most of the action/drama comes from the characters inner conflicts, which in the past I found to be singularly the most boring of conflicts. However, since I was not bored at all during the reading of these novels, I have to reevaluate that idea.

And so concludes the first part of the series. I say first part now, because where there are lycan, vampires will surely follow and so it is that the next two novels that star two more coven sisters also have vampire heroes. So stay tuned for It Happened One Bite and In the Heat of the Bite in March and July 2011, respectively!

Rika Ashton (aka Series Reviewer Extraordinaire)

P.S: For better summaries that those offered on Amazon and Fantastic Fiction, check out the authors’ official website. Unfortunately, I couldn’t copy and paste these here, as this fuction is not enabled from their website.

P.P.S: Looking for more reading materials? You can check out my writer buddy, Priscilla Shay’s blog, and her book review marathon for some great recommendations.