Book Review – Changeless by Gail Carriger

I adored Soulless, but have just now gotten around to picking up book 2 in the Parasol Protectorate series, Changeless. Why now?

Partly because of the whole finishing-a-draft thing, and partly because I wanted to get at least ONE of the books in non-Kindle form. Why, you ask?

Changeless by Gail CarrigerWell, Ms. Carriger will be in Tulsa in October for the Nimrod Literary Conference, which means I get a chance to quietly fangirl in person.

Or, you know, just ask her nicely to sign my book. And then talk about tea. And parasols.

ANYWAY.

In Changeless, Alexia Tarabotti is now Lady Alexia Maccon, wife to Lord Conall Maccon and the Alpha female of the Woolsey werewolf pack. However, life is not all moonshine and roses for our intrepid heroine.

Something is triggering a plague of mass humanization, making vampires and werewolves temporarily mortal, which causes the supernatural population of London no end of consternation. Then, as if that weren’t enough, Conall vanishes northward to Scotland on noticeably vague “family business.”

Saddled with her best friend, Ivy, and her annoying sister, Felicity, and armed with tea and her trusty parasol, Alexia takes off to investigate the plague of humanization and track down her wayward husband.

As before, the tone of this book is phenomenal. There’s not a wasted word on the page, and Carriger has a way of twisting phrases just so to tickle your funny bone. (Or at least tickle mine.) More than once, my roommates asked, “What’s so funny?” because I started laughing out loud. Often, in public. Much as I enjoy the stories themselves, Carriger’s writing style is a big part of what makes them so delightful.

Lady Maccon sipped a freshly brewed cup in profound relief. All in all, it had been quite the trying evening thus far. With Ivy and hats in her future, it was only likely to get worse. Tea was a medicinal necessity at this juncture.

Tea is a medicinal necessity at any juncture, frankly.

Alexia continues to be a very fun character: strong, witty, capable, and a believer in a good cup of tea and a proper meal. She’s always ready with her trusty parasol and an arsenal of put-downs. She and Lord Maccon are just as fun in this book as they were previously, perhaps even more so now that they’re married.

Ivy is sometimes eyerolling, sometimes hilarious, but the whole “forbidden love” between her and Tunstell is sidesplitting. Also, Ivy gets (quite accidentally) drunk. On a flying dirigible. It goes about as well as you’d expect.

I did miss Lord Akeldama (he’s here, though not as much as he was in book one). He’s still outrageous, still calling Alexia things like “buttercup,” and still speaking primarily in italics. The precious few scenes with him – especially him, Biffy, and Professor Lyall (Lord Maccon’s Beta) – are just great.

But, we have some new characters in this one, most particularly Madame Lefoux, a talented milliner/inventor who also (gasp!) dresses like a man. She’s a particularly fun addition to the cast, and makes a good foil for Alexia when Conall is not around.

Changeless also fleshes out the world a bit more. We learn more about the history of the werewolves, a little more about the vampires, and (most importantly) the history of Lord Maccon himself. I like the deeper dip into world’s mythology and how the society is set up.

Warning: you probably shouldn’t read this book unless you’ve already got book 3, Blameless, somewhere in easy grabbing distance. The cliffhanger at the end was one that had me going, “Wait, what? What? WHAT?” (Yes, I was doing my very best Tenth Doctor impersonation there.) (And yes, I’ve now got Blameless on my Kindle.)

And really, that ending scene was the only time I felt jarred. I laughed aloud at one line, only to realize two sentences later we had entered “serious business” territory. That was where part of the “wait, what?” reaction came from.

Obviously, Changeless was not only good enough for me to finish in 24 hours, but also good enough for me to buy book three the same week. I really hope the next three books are as good as the first two, because I am enjoying this series immensely.

Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

I’ve been on a hell of a steampunk kick lately (what, you didn’t notice? Perhaps I haven’t talked about Abney Park enough…), so when I saw somebody on Twitter ask for steampunk recommendations, I paid close attention to what people responded.

Soulless by Gail Carriger One of the suggestions was Soulless, which is the first novel in the Parasol Protectorate series.

(Side note: Is “protectorate” not an awesome word?)

So, I did what I normally do now when I hear about a new book: downloaded the sample on my Kindle and gave it a chapter to catch my interest.

Here’s the title of the first chapter: “In Which Parasols Prove Useful.”

Tell me that doesn’t make you want to read more.

The omniscient narration bothered me initially. However, once I got past that, I couldn’t put this book down – in the “stay up till 2 a.m. in order to finish” kind of way. It was so much fun.

Alexia Tarrabotti is soulless, a fact that she keeps well-hidden from everybody. If a supernatural creature, such as a vampire or a werewolf, touches her, they will lose their powers and revert to full human as long as they maintain contact.

One of the few people who know her secret is Lord Maccon, a Scottish werewolf and the head of the London branch of BUR, the government office responsible for keeping tabs on all the supernatural beings running around.

When a vampire (very rudely) attacks Alexia and she kills him, she and Lord Maccon find out that other uncultured vampires have been appearing in London, and more importantly, rogue vampires have been disappearing. Now, they just have to figure out who, exactly, is behind it before they come after Alexia herself.

Like I said before, the tone of this story was just note-perfect. Here’s an excerpt, just after she meets an “unexpected” vampire for the first time:

Yet he moved toward her, darkly shimmering out of the library shadows with feeding fangs ready. However, the moment he touched Miss Tarabotti, he was suddenly no longer darkly doing anything at all. He was simply standing there, the faint sounds of a string quartet in the background as he foolishly fished about with his tongue for fangs unaccountably mislaid.

It just gets better as the book goes on. I could not stop giggling at the narration or the dialogue, and there were several parts that I kept going back and rereading just to laugh at them again.

Plus, the characters were equally great. Alexia is tremendously entertaining as a spinster who doesn’t fit in with her family, who always has a quick quip ready to confuse and bewilder her mother and sisters.

I was initially curious about reading a romance wherein the heroine is supposed to be “soulless,” but it works perfectly. Alexia and Lord Lord Maccon have a crackling chemistry with each other, which results in some very hot scenes and some very witty dialogue (quite possibly my favorite part of historical romances: the perfectly Victorian dialogue).

And then you have Lord Akeldama, a flamboyantly gay rogue vampire who is Alexia’s best friend. Though his dialogue is a bit difficult to read with all the italics, he is an immensely fun character, and the relationship between him and Alexia is, at its heart, very sweet. (He makes a very touching request from her near the end of the book, which I won’t spoil here.)

Overall, it was a really fun steampunk mystery/romance. If you like any of those mentioned genres, be sure to pick this up when you get a chance. (Or, if you’ve been looking for a steampunk book to try out, grab this one.)

I’m looking forward to getting the next one in the series when I finish wading my way through the rest of the books on my shelf.

On that note, let’s see how I’m doing, shall we?

Books read so far - 2.27.12

Pile #3 is growing...

Kindle books:
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Fiction:
Endymion by Dan Simmons
The Ancient by R.A. Salvatore
Long Lost by David Morrell
A Coral Kiss by Jayne Ann Krentz (Screw it. Life’s too short to read romance novels you don’t like.)
If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (I don’t want to hear a damn word.)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (recently added, thanks to my sister-in-law)
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Nonfiction
The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire by Susan Ronald
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham (Reading now!)
Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey
Story by Robert McKee