Timeless by Gail Carriger

10 September, 2012

You all know how much I enjoyed reading the previous four volumes of Gail Carriger’s supernatural steampunk adventures, right? No? Then scroll down to check out what I thought!

Timeless is the fifth and final volume in the series where we see Alexia Tarrabotti, wife to Lord Conall Maccon, Alpha of the Woolsey Pack, juggling motherhood with her duties as a werewolf’s wife, friend to a rising actress with a penchant for silly hats and protecting the interests of the British Empire. The infant inconvenience Prudence has inherited Alexia’s worrying abilities with a twist and has been placed under the care of Alexia’s friend and neighbour, the dandy vampire Lord Akeldama who is best suited to take care of and placate the wee one. Her parents are on hand to visit and take charge but Prudence’s ability to steal any supernatural’s powers with whom she comes in contact is both terrifying and taxing.

When Alexia receives a summons from an ancient vampire Queen, she travels to Egypt with her husband and friends to pay her respects and to also try and find the origin of the God-Breaker Plague which has been spreading and threatening the supernatural community.

And while the Maccons are prancing around Egypt, Professor Lyall and Biffy are left in charge and uncover evidence that leads everything back to Alessandro Tarrabotti: enigmatic, evil and Alexia’s father.

And so we come to the final volume of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. We finally get to the bottom of the enigma that is Alessandro Tarrabotti and trace his last project to what is afflicting the Egyptian supernaturals. We see structural changes to the Woolsey pack that is both emotional and yet satisfying. And above all, we get to meet Prudence, Alexia and Connall’s daughter who is a true delight.

I really enjoyed this book and am sad to say goodbye to the characters, many of whom I’d like to know a whole lot better. Maybe some day?

The other books in the Parasol Protectorate series:

Heartless by Gail Carriger

6 September, 2012

I totally forgot that I hadn’t posted about this book until I started writing my post for the next one. Bad me. So although it’s been a while, I’ll try and succinctly put together some thoughts for the fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, Heartless. As per my usual stance, I strongly advise that y’all read this series in order like the good people you are and start with Soulless.

Ok, so in Heartless, set a few months after Changeless, Alexia Tarrabotti is now heavily pregnant and has to protect Queen Victoria herself after receiving a dire warning from a ghost. But Alexia also has to fend of attacks by the Westminster Hive who are naturally fearful of the impending birth and she soon realises that someone close to her also has designs on her life.

With all the changes that happened previously and with a new and reluctant cub to instruct, Alexia has her hands full. And on top of that, there is an infestation of deadly mechanical creatures to contend with. As Alexia seeks refuge in Lord Akeldama’s 2nd best closet, we finally begin to learn about her husband Conall’s past and even get an insight into Alexia’s father, that elusive preternatural, Alessandro Tarabotti.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel is seeing the change in Biffy, Lord Akeldama’s toyboy, who plays a big part in this novel. Poignant in some parts but he’s quickly become one of my favourite characters, especially since he become’s Alexia’s dresser. I also enjoyed meeting the Woolsey pack again as well as the usual supporting characters including the still mysterious Madame Lefoux and Felicity, Alexia’s obnoxious half-sister who has suddenly discovered the suffragettes’ cause and has been exiled to live with Alexia.

Although this isn’t my favourite book in the series as it felt a little more subdued, the ending more than makes up for it as it sets you up for the last book, Timeless. In fact, you just can’t wait for it.

The other books in the Parasol Protectorate series:

So I totally forgot I had this until I had to renew it at the library. Busy me has too many books on her shelf. But this was a nice, light relief after reading Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and I finished this quickly and in a much better mood. Gail Carriger has done it again with her third book in the Parasol Protectorate series, Blameless. If you haven’t read any of the series, I urge you to start with Soulless and then go on to Changeless before attempting this one as it’s more fun if you know the back story. Plus you don’t want to miss out all the introductions to the various side characters that make this series so special.

So, Lady Alexia Maccon née Tarabotti is now a social pariah having been kicked out of her house and marriage and accused of adultery by her enraged husband, werewolf and Alpha of the Woolsey Pack, Lord Connall Maccon. Alexia isn’t one to wallow in her misery and is soon on her way to Italy, her late father’s country, to meet the Templars and see whether they can give her an insight into her present condition and being a preternatural. The infant inconvenience is as much a mystery to her as to everyone else, including her husband who has been trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol to the dismay of his pack. Once again it is Professor Randolph Lyall, his Beta, who must keep control of the Woolsey Pack as he tries to bring Maccon to his senses.

In the meantime, Alexia’s friend and confidant Lord Adelkama has vanished when Alexia needs him most. The vampires are out to kill her and she, together with her trusted butler Floote and her cross-dressing friend, Madame Lefoux, must stay alive long enough for her to show her husband that he was wrong.

Apart from the usual gang including Lord Adelkama’s drone, the delicious dandy Biffy, we meet some crazy scientific types such as Monsieur Trouvé in Paris belonging to the Order of the Brass Octopus as well as the sinister and religious Templars who are out to slay all supernaturals and their German expert on preternaturals, Mr. Lange-Wilsdorf who begins and ends all his sentences with ‘ya’. Yeah. I have to say that Carriger’s take on the Templers is pretty interesting but that’s ok as I love everything about the Templers and it’s nice to have them parodied.

My only gripes (I can’t help having gripes about books I love, dammit) are that 1) some of the character names are getting rather too outrageous and long and 2) we didn’t see enough of Connall Maccon and Lord Adelkama. However, we did get to see more of Professor Lyall, so I guess it’s a fair exchange.

So I don’t need to tell you that I’m really looking forward to reading Heartless, right??

You may recall how I enjoyed Gail Carriger’s steampunk urban fantasy Soulless a few months ago. I was eager to get my mitts on the sequel, Changeless, and lo and behold I found it in the library. It’s fate, I tell you.

This was as enjoyable as the first book and I raced through it like nobody’s business. I don’t really want to give anything away except that preternatural Alexia Tarabotti and supernatural Lord Conall Maccon are now married and embark on another adventure when something sinister sweeps through London, compromising the supernatural abilities of the vampires, werewolves and ghosts that populate the city. When Lord Maccon disappears off to Scotland to sort out some urgent business with his former pack, things come to a head when Alexia, who now works for the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, follows him on the trail of the mysterious object that is causing such havoc amongst the supernaturals. But that is not all that Alexia has to contend with as she comes face to face with Conall’s former werewolf pack, still feeling anger and betrayal at his abandoment.

Once again we are re-united with all the familiar characters we met in Soulless including Alexia’s chum, the deliciously camp vampire, Lord Akeldama, and his impeccably attired and aristocratic drones as well as my favourite werewolf, Professor Randolph Lyell, Lord Maccon’s Beta. We finally get to meet blond and buff Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings, Lord Maccon’s Gamma who has returned with his troops from India and has set up camp in the back garden of Woolsey Castle, and the mysterious Madame Lefoux, milliner cum spy, who accompanies Alexia to Scotland and has connections to the Order of the Brass Octopus. The sinister goings-on have something to do with the nature of the soul, something which Alexia lacks, and we can see that things are going to get a lot more complex before the series ends.

My only gripe is that I noticed a lot of Americanisms creeping into the text of what is otherwise a perfectly English/Victorian steampunk fantasy.

However, there is murder, theft and secrets galore and a seriously fantastic cliffhanger and I cannot wait to dig into the next book Blameless which is waiting for me on my TBR.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

15 January, 2011

My oh my. You’re probably wondering about my erratic choices in reading material, but hey, I want to read them all and will grab my fix wherever I can take it. So although I was thinking of reading more Japanese literature (as the Japanese Literature Challenge 4 is ending this month) and Sri Lankan literature (in preparation for my trip there in a week’s time) I couldn’t help but snatch this off the library shelves. I figured I’d read this quickly and see what all the fuss is about.

And it was a very quick read. And a highly enjoyable one too. You know me and vampires. I love them. And werewolves too. I think I may love them even more. Soulless by Gail Carriger has both plus a Buffy-like figure in the character of Alexia Tarabotti, a preternatural (as opposed to supernatural) without a soul who can cancel out supernatural abilities. In Carriger’s alternate Victorian world, supernatural creatures have an over-abundance of soul. And they have been out in public since the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. Carriger has managed to strategically insert vampires, werewolves and ghosts into British history to give quite interesting explanations for the expansion of the Empire and Britain’s military might.

Alexia Tarabotti is half-Italian, tanned, full-bodied, a spinster and the only registered preternatural in Britain. Her mother has remarried an aristocrat after her father’s death and everyone is more or less embarrassed by Alexia who would rather read a book than pick a dress. Alexia’s power means that as soon as she touches a supernatural, they become mortal and most view her with suspicion as their powers are compromised. The vampire hives and werewolf clans are well organised and tabs are kept by the Bureau of Unnatural Registry led by one Connall Maccon, the Earl of Woolsey, the Alpha werewolf of his clan and his Beta Professor Randolph Lyall. Don’t you just love Professors in steampunk novels? And there’s an even more delicious character in the vampire Lord Akeldama, so gossipy, so fashionable and so moreish in a camp kind of way.

In this first outing of the Parasol Protectorate series, Alexia is attacked by a rove (rogue) vampire who has no idea who she is. It soon transpires that an alarming number of roves and lone werewolves (without a clan) have gone missing in the past few months. And there is a sinister figure belonging to a secret scientific organisation that is stalking Alexia, a supernatural being who is unaffected by Alexia’s touch. As she delves deeper into the mystery of the missing vampires and werewolves, Alexia also finds herself more and more drawn to Lord Maccon who finds her exasperating yet looks at her like he wants to devour her.

Soulless is a highly enjoyable steampunk romance with a lot of comic moments. I thought Carriger’s backstory and worldbuilding was interesting and also credible (in a vampire/werewolf kind of way). You can see her interest in history and the details are immaculate. What Soulless reminded me of was Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey mysteries with a combination of mystery, wit and romance, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody mysteries but that may have been because of the sturdy parasol and the irrascible leading man and Eleanor Updale’s Montmorency novels, all of which I love. I, for one, am on my way to the library to get my next fix.

Carriger is planning 5 books in total for the Parasol Protectorate series of which three have been published so far. On her website she said she also enjoys Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. Has anyone read them?