An Infatuation with Parasols
Although it is only two books in, the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger may be one of my favorite series yet. I want to say
I recommend the series unreservedly, because I really am that enamored, but it pains me to recognize that while I think the absurd Victorian propriety with a little Steampunk thrown in is really the most amazing thing ever, I am sure there are many readers out there—perhaps even you—that are calling me absolutely batty at the moment. It’s ok. I’m used to it. But read on to see why you might like the series too.
Alexia Tarabotti, daughter of an Italian man and an English socialite, has been shelved. Her mother feels like her younger half-sisters have a far better chance of landing the right husband, since a Alexia is a bit too Italian for the ton. Oh, and there is also the small fact that Alexia is soulless, even if her family is not privy to that small tidbit.
No, she’s not a satan-worshipper or anything so gauche. It’s simply a fact. She has no soul. It’s a bit of a genetic issue, really, since her father was also soulless.
In Alexia’s Britain, you see, vampires and werewolves exist and live alongside humans, more or less. There’s a perfectly logical and scientific explanation for how they exist—which someone will eventually come up with—but for now all we readers need to know is that it seems to have something to do with an excess of soul. So, many humans become aides of a sort to the paranormal set (drones to vampires, clavigers to werewolves) with the hope that they will be turned. When the turning is attempted, if that human has an excess of soul, it is successful, if not, well, 6 feet under it is. But alongside the souled, and those with excess soul, are the rare soulless. Considered paranormal as well, these men and women negate the powers of vampires and werewolves when they touch them. That is to say, they turn them human, for a time. The vamps and weres both have mixed feelings about that, to say the least. The soulless can also exorcise ghosts, but that is another matter.
As we move into book two (don’t worry, this won’t spoil book one if you haven’t read it yet), Alexia has become Lady Maccon, having married the alpha of the local were pack, Connall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey. After the arrival of a ship carrying solders from the Indian front, the paranormals of London find themselves quite inconveniently human, for a time. The weres are unable to shift and the vampires cannot grow fangs. It’s all rather unpleasant. Alexia sets out to figure out what is causing the problem, and raises more questions about her own soulless nature along the way.
Maybe it is due to my infatuation, but I really can’t come up with anything bad to say. Gail Carriger’s writing is witty, well-structured and keeps me drawn into the story. I really do adore it. Her stories have enough twists to keep it from being too awfully predictable—though I do admit to having spotted the true villain of book two quite early. Nonetheless, the books are an entertaining read and I do suggest them to those readers who enjoy a bit of absurdity every now and then.
Carriger’s character development in this book was perhaps the main focus—one that she pulled off beautifully. I do have one caveat for the reader: if you, like me, utterly despise cliffhanger endings, especially when the issue is brought up in the last chapter in such a way that you’re terribly unprepared, even if you saw the issue at hand being alluded to far eariler but couldn’t have guessed the outcome (*breath*), don’t start the series until September. Wait for the release of book three, Blameless. The interpersonal interactions especially shine in this book, but it is those relationships that left the plot hanging and me unfulfilled.
If you haven’t read it, you must start with book one, Soulless before reading Changeless. Blameless is sure to be devoured by this blogger upon its release—September 1, 2010—as I am waiting with baited breath for a resolution to the cliffhanging ending (and what happens next after the teaser chapter).
Loved Changless? Hated it? Absolutely furious that I recommended it? Let me know in the comments.