I am happy to report that I am making good progress with the 2011 Steampunk Reading Challenge.
I just completed the second book for the challenge last night and yes it was another sleepless night–well late anyway–I just couldn’t unwind!
I finished reading Changeless by Gail Carriger, most of my time at my ‘day job’ was spent longing to go home and keep reading Changeless so I of course picked it up the minute I walked in the door.
As I mentioned review of Soulless, I was hooked before you could say ‘Parasol Protectorate’! The first book was a great mixture of humor, supernaturalism, romance, and mystery. Besides the aesthetically pleasing cover, the story itself is equally as fun to read. The only thing that made me sad was the ending–I just HAD to start reading the third book, I couldn’t stand it if I had to wait months for the next book but more on that in a minute!
As I noted in some other posts, the challenge caught my attention because I love all things Victorian/Gothic and this looked like a fun sub-genre that I didn’t know much about and had not read a lot of, I also realized I didn’t really explain what Steampunk is. The Steampunk Age website gives a much more detailed background and worth checking out–but in short the genre includes things like mad scientists, blimps, innovative technology, flying machines, futuristic ideas, but all set in a turn of the century/Victorian setting. So think–The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Golden Compass. Those two examples are more or less ‘all encompassing’ of the genre but the book, file, or culture doesn’t have to have ALL these things to be considered ‘Steampunk’.
The genre is very recognizable and once you recognize the characteristics that make Steampunk what it is–you will have no trouble spotting it a mile away! So that is what drew me to this challenge–Steampunk is eccentric, colorful, and a well defined sub-genre to Gothic/Victorian fiction.
So now on to the good stuff–the book review! The story is set in early 19th century London and the protagonist is newly married Alexia Tarabotti–wait I’m sorry, correction–Lady Maccon. Here is a description from Shelfari:
Alexia Tarabotti, now Lady Maccon, 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 into the backwater of ugly waistcoats, Scotland, 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.
In the last book the ex-spinster turned ‘Lady’ did what no typical Victorian woman would do–she was, shock/horror, INDEPENDENT! Alexia begins the series unmarried and a confirmed spinster until Lord Maccon sweeps her off her feet and marries her. He loves her for her independent and very ‘un-lady like’ wild streak.
He respects her mind supports her goals, for example at the end of the first novel the Queen offers her a position on her supernatural council and unlike other traditional Victorian men, he supports her choice to accept the job–he even recommended her for it! Like most female protagonists in ‘para-romance’, ‘vamp-lit’, or other supernatural/fantasy books–she is more masculine, independent, and possess some unique power which will likely save her love interest (vamp, werewolf, etc) from his personal hell. So in that sense, Carriger nailed her character perfectly.
Since Alexia is the antidote or ‘curse breaker’ of all things supernatural meaning she can change Lord Maccon from werewolf to human at the touch of a hand–some supernaturals don’t trust her and it would seem her husband is included in that statement. In the story the supernatural world is turned upside down when ‘supes’ fail to do what is expected meaning all of a sudden werewolves can’t change, ghosts are exorcised etc. Most of them think some how someone has taken Alexia’s power of ‘curse breaking’ and converted it into a weapon of mass destruction or something. So Lord Maccon decides to try and solve the mystery by returning to his old pack in Scotland which seems to be causing the anomaly.
Alexia is of course bothered by the fact that Lord Maccon won’t tell her what is going on or tell her why he’s leaving so when an opportunity presents itself to go to Scotland, she takes it! She and her very large entourage board the first dirigible (air ship, blimp–see pic) in Hyde Park to Scotland. Oh and side note, I absolutely LOVE how Carriger describes the dirigible journey! It was SO much fun to read her descriptions on the travel attire (especially for women) and the technology!
Prior to the flight Alexia has somehow inherited a new BFF (Madam Lefoux), her original BFF (Ivy), and sister she loathes (Felicity) as part of her entourage. Madam Lefoux and Alexia are very much alike and though they don’t trust each other they are certainly going to be fast friend, but Madam Lefoux is a little more ‘affectionate’ and has a love of very masculine attire if you catch my drift so she longs for something ‘more’ with Alexia. That was an interesting twist that I didn’t see coming but was not at all surpsied by.
At first I thought it was a little out of character for Alexia’s character (though nothing explicit happens between the friends, there is a moment when Alexia does think Madam Lefoux smells rather nice and they do get a little close)–however when I step back and think about it, Alexia is pretty masculine so a lesbian or bisexual encounter doesn’t seem completely off base. At any rate, the entourage floats northward and rendevous with Lord Maccon and they head to his previous pack’s castle to try and solve the mystery of the supernatural breaking plague.
The castle is very gothic in nature–its dark, crumbling, and probably has ghosts (if it weren’t for the curse breaking plague which exorcises ghosts). The castle has fallen in disarray since Lord Maccon left–there has been no alpha to lead the pack and now that they can’t change into werewovles they are more of less cut off from the supe world! Alexia is met with something she had never really expected when she married Lord Maccon–inlaws! The non-werewolf quasi alpha female is Lord Maccon’s great great great granddaughter or something and all of a sudden it dawns on Alexia–she is probably not his first wife.
Lord Maccon is in SUPER hot water because he never told her anything about his past such as said previous marriage, off spring, and the fact that he knew her own father (a man she never knew). So as not to give too much a way, I will stop there–let’s just say she ends up dropping a bomb on him herself and he will be made to lay in his own bed–he certainly made it himself by keeping things from her and not trusting her.
This novel was a little more complicated to follow along with–there was a lot more background info given on the supernatural beings, politics, and para-genealogy. While the first novel was more about pararomance, this was more like para-domestics with a twist of homo-erotic unrequited desires. It was suspenseful–though predictable at times, but Alexia is so funny that the novel was anything but boring. I did hope for a little more romance and a little more relationship development between Lord Maccon and Alexia, but it seems like all this backgound work will be a foundation for the next book which I am hoping has more pararomance and relationship development!
On to the next book-Parasol at the ready!
- Kindle Edition, 336 pages
- Published September 8th 2010 by Orbit (first published April 1st 2010)
- ASIN B0030I1XFK
This book counts toward: 2011 Steampunk Challenge
- Hosted by: Bookish Ardour
- Books for Challenge Completed: 2/5
Recommendation: 4 out of 5
Genre: Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, Supernatural Fiction, Para-Romance.
Memorable lines/quotes: NA