As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

November 16, 2010

The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger, 2009 - 2010

A special series review by Jennifer Day Mattson, AP English Teacher

In a world over-saturated with supernatural romance novels, I love Gail Carriger and her Parasol Protectorate series! These books are so wildly inventive and enjoyable. The characters are all fully realized and believable and even minor characters are vital to the plot movement and atmosphere of the novel. The "steampunk" ethos, combining unusual technology with Victorian European setting, is seamless and intriguing. The romance is perfectly balanced with adventure and her sense of humor sings from every page. Read these books - they are phenomenal!


Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)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 was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then 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? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. (Amazon product description)

Wow! This is a fun one. It reminded me of a mash-up between the Georgette Heyer/Marion Chesney and the Laurell K. Hamilton oeuvres. The setting involves proper Victorian British society folks whose culture has developed slightly differently because of the presence and acceptance of werewolves, vampires, and ghosts in their midst. I like how the Brits have accepted these supernaturals for the most part, while the Americans - because of their Puritan origins, of course - reject and hunt them. There are the usual gender conflicts and paradoxes - the ruler of the land is a woman (Queen Victoria), but the rest of the women of society aren't allowed to do much beyond be shown off at balls and soirees to catch an eligible husband. The main character is a woman, who has been "put on the shelf" before she even has a coming-out, because she has inherited dark skin, a prominent nose, and heavy brows from her Italian father which make her abhorrent to those of the fashion taste-makers. She also has the unfortunate habit of loving books and speaking her mind. The horror! She teams up with the head of the supernatural bureau, a werewolf, to solve the mysterious appearance of newly made vampires, and the disappearance of other vampires and werewolves. Of course, sleuthing and romancing ensue.


Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate)
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. (Amazon product description)

Ahh, Gail Carriger, what have you done to me? I was initially nervous to read this book, because I enjoyed the first book so immensely that I always worry I will be let down. But, not so! There are new, intriguing characters to meet and an intriguing mystery to solve; a hat shop and a dirigible ride - yay! There are some excellent Lyall moments; some great Biffy and Lord Akeldama moments (one in the form of a delightful, cryptic message over the aetherograph-thingy); and Miss Hisselpenny and her atrocious hats, which makes me very happy.


Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate)
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.  (Amazon product description)

I love Gail Carriger! Her stories are so well-crafted and creative and detailed, with phenomenal characters - even so-called "secondary characters" are multi-faceted, endearing and/or intriguing.

I hate Gail Carriger! It's not fair that someone could have the imagination to come up with the weird technological devices that would seem plausible in this steam-punky Victorian England. (And again: the characters are brilliant and amazing!) And along with her great imagination is her fantastic writing style and wit. I've read so many novels lately from series that started out fun and snarky and now seem forced and headache-inducing. These novels are just refreshing, fresh, and real.

The last novel, Changeless, ended on a very nail-bittingly intense cliff hanger and it almost killed me to wait until this one came out! But was it worth the wait! And although - small spoiler alert - this one didn't exactly end on a cliffhanger, I'm excited to note that a fourth one is on its way (unfortunately not coming out until next summer), and there are definitely some exciting loose ends that need to be tied up.

Market: Adult Fiction
Language: Moderate
Sensuality: Bodices are ripped, there is plenty of kissing and petting, a couple of borderline graphic scenes, but this definitely isn't in the "smut" category.Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: marriage, then wondering if one should have gotten married. Supernatural elements.

Book formats:


Kim said...

This sounds like a fun series! I'll add it to my Christmas holidays reading list. Wonderful review!

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

LOVE these books! Witty, sexy, engaging. Plus I have a crush on Lord Maccon.

wendy said...

I'm hooked :) - currently listening to #2 on CD in my car, and I love it!! The narrator is Emily Gray, a British actress, and she does such a good job with the voices.....(think Lord Akeldama and Biffy; also a very dry, scottish Lord Maccon). Just a fun change of pace from my typical historical fiction stuff....