It took me about six months to finally pick up the first book in this series (despite owning it since it came out) and about eight hours to read the last one (I had to finish another book first) after it came out... here’s what’s what with this intriguing series...
So far I am finding the books of the Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger to be thoroughly entertaining... the main character Alexia Tarabotti is reminiscent of Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody (especially Amelia of the first Peabody book) in believing she knows exactly where her life is headed and the way we see the world through her eyes.
The first book in the series, Soulless introduces us to a rich, beautifully revisionist steam punk world where both vampires and werewolves live out in the open as members of this Victorian society. Alexia Tarabotti is not out in the open, for she carries a secret few know- she has no soul. Her soulless state does not make her evil; instead it makes her very analytical and prone to being an outcast because of her lack of frivolity (especially from her obnoxious, marriage minded half sisters). Soullessness is an antidote for the supernatural, one of those “who sucked all the supernatural out of the room? Oh Alexia I didn’t see you there” types.
This book has a good bit more romance than the others; they have to get together in the first place, right? The romance is spot on, neither really wants to be attracted to the other, a soulless with a werewolf is scandalous in its own right, when a werewolf takes notice of what everyone else thinks is just a normal girl it gets downright awkward at times, which I personally think makes for some awesome romance.
The non-romance aspects of the plot, crazy inventors run amuck, vampires! Werewolves! Queen Victoria! Oh My! Make it a story anyone can get in to.
Changeless, the second book in the series, tackles a new side of Conall Maccon (werewolf hunk extraordinaire), that of pack leader... not of the notorious Woolsey pack, but his “real” pack, the ones he’s related to by blood. This book, while quite thoroughly enjoyable left me a couple times wondering what on earth was going on... maybe I was not in the right state of mind when I read it, but I kept getting confused about the action. I did, by literally the end of the second chapter, have the main plot point of Blameless worked out without even knowing about the third book... so I saw that one coming a million miles away.
Anywho... I do feel that the plight of the poor normal-abnormals could have been focused on a bit more, especially for the humorous angles presented when vampires and werewolves in highly evolved societies are handicapped overnight without knowing why. The flight of Conall Maccon out of London, without a word to his wife struck me as out of character for a man who, in the last book, was shown as so devoted and sees Alexia as a partner in running the Woolsey pack. Alexia’s following him is much more pitch perfect, but that’s when the crazy “what is going on here?” feeling starts and stays for the rest of the book. Perhaps also, due to a very American upbringing (or just a well developed sense of French villainy in fiction), I like neither Angelique nor Madam Lefoux the two prominent French characters in this series and was unable to keep my interest on the parts with the two of them, keep that in mind for the next book.
Blameless, the third book in the series, begins with Alexia back with the Loontwills (I love the surnames in this series!) and miserable. Without spoiling the book, which is extremely hard to do since the entire thing revolves around the main plot point (which I figured out way back during the second chapter of book two, so if you’ve read a good description of book two you probably have too), I will say that Alexia and Madame Lefoux flee to “the continent” in search of the Templars, who are apparently in-the-know about all things soulless.
The good points: Professor Lyall is a much bigger character in this book, which is awesome to me since he is, by far, my favorite character in the series. Second, Floote has a bigger role in this book. Third, sadly those two awesome characters are filling the hole left by Conall’s absence. Boo. Lord Maccon spends most of the book drunk (a very difficult feat for a werewolf), but at least he is funny while he’s at it.
I had a really hard time liking this book, as usual for the series the dialogue was spot on, leaving me to reread scenes just for the giggle factor. I think Conall’s a dolt for believing bad things about Alexia... especially considering the events of Changeless (well duh Conall, really). Alexia becomes a little Spineless (maybe a title for a future book??) and just runs off with the semi-creepy Madame Lefoux. Lord Akledama goes missing for a good part of the book, taking a lot of its color with it... there are just so many things awry in Alexia’s world that it leaves you feeling a little “off” about the whole thing in the end.
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