Series: PARASOL PROTECTORATE
Plot Type: Steampunk Romance; Urbane Fantasy
Ratings: Violence—3-4; Sensuality—3-4; Humor—3-4
Publisher and Titles: Orbit
Timeless (3/2012) (FINAL BOOK)
In Alexia’s world, England has both a human and a supernatural populace, with werewolves and vampires taking their places alongside humans in high society. The vampires live in "hives" ruled by their queens, and the werewolves live in pack houses ruled by their alphas.
Even Queen Victoria is involved in the supernatural world. Although she is human, she has supernaturals among her top advisers. Steam-driven and spring-loaded tools, weapons, and transportation (especially dirigibles) enhance the lives of the characters. An example of the gadgetry is Alexia’s parasol with its abundance of hidden spring-loaded weaponry. This combination of Victorian London and steam technology is known as steampunk—a science fiction subgenre that is defined by its four Gs: goggles, gadgets, gears, and guns. Click HERE to go to Carriger's web page on steampunk.
Click HERE to read some deleted scenes from the PARASOL PROTECTORATE (PP) novels. Click HERE to go to Carriger's character studies on her PP characters. Click HERE to go to Carriger's world-building page, which includes these topics and more:
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?
Alexia Maccon, 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. So 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.
In Blameless,, Alexia takes off for Europe, where she tries to prove her innocence, while Conall has a hard time back in London coping with a life without her.
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.
In the early pages of the book, an extremely weird and disturbing arrangement is worked out to keep the vampires at bay, but it means that Alexia and Conall must take up residence next door to Lord Akeldama (aka Dama). This doesn't go over very well with Conall, but it provides many humorous scenes with the fashionable and fastidious Lord Akeldama and his dandified drones. In the meantime, Madame Lefoux is working on a mysterious new invention but refuses to tell Alexia who commissioned it or what it does. And one more complication: Felicity (Alexia's obnoxious sister) shows up on Alexia's doorstep announcing that her parents have kicked her out of their house because she has joined the suffragette movement. (Oddly, Alexia seems more shocked about Felicity's suffragette leanings than she is about the plot to kill the queen.) As events play out, Alexia learns new facts about her father and discovers the truth about the role that Lyall (the Woolsey pack's Beta) played in the demise of the previous Woolsey alpha.
I hate to say it, but I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first three, and especially the delightful book 1, Soulless, which is the best of them all. The surfeit of plot lines resulted in a number of convoluted and manipulated events. Towards the end, I was just plowing ahead hoping that the author wouldn't introduce any more complications. Also disappointing is the fact that Alexia's husband, Conall, has deteriorated into a bumbling fool—quite a departure from his gruff but capable character in book 1. Alexia's character has also gone downhill since the early books. Back then, she was as smart as she was independent, but in this book she is reactive and inept, with most of her missteps being blamed on her late-stage pregnancy.
NOVEL 5: Timeless
The story opens two years after book 4 ends. Little Prudence Alessandra Maccan Akeldama is a toddler, and she is doted upon by Lord Akeldama (her adopted father) and his drones. (The whole convoluted adoption situation is explained in book 4.)
The plot of this book involves the investigation of the murder of Dubh, the Beta of the Scottish werewolf pack, which is Conall's former pack, now run by his belligerent granddaughter. Dubh is shot before he can finish relaying a crucial message to Alexia about something important that her late father did in Egypt ten years ago. Shortly thereafter, Alexia gets another message about Egypt—this one sent by Matakara, queen of the Alexandria (Egypt) hive, and delivered by Countess Nadasdy, queen of the London hive. The Countess is Alexia's old nemesis and is now living in the mansion that formerly housed Conall's pack. (It's all very complicated; you will have to read book 4 to get the details of the housing situation.)
Soon, Alexia and Conall are on a steamship to Egypt, accompanied by her BFF Ivy Tunstell, Ivy's husband and twin babies, and the Tunstell's eccentric acting troupe. Alexia is using the actors as camouflage to keep her departure from London from being noticed. (I'm not sure that makes sense at all, but it's the story line.) When the group reaches Alexandria, the visit with the vampire queen doesn't go well, especially when some of her vamps attack Alexia. Then, some thugs try to grab Alexia and one of the babies off the streets in broad daylight. To top things off, someone then kidnaps Ivy's baby.
This book is much better than the last one, with all of the characters in fine form, especially Conall, who is back to his old gruff, but intelligent, self. Carriger's witty writing is always a pleasure to read, and, as always, Lord Akeldama's scenes, even though brief in this book, are the highlight of the story. He deserves his own series. Biffy's character is much more fully developed in this book, emerging as an almost heroic character. Biffy has gone through a huge transformation during the series. In the early books, he was one of Lord Akeldama's dandified drones. Then he became a werewolf under dire circumstances. And in this book he steps up to some major challenges that result in even more alterations in his life. Biffy is actually the character who has changed the most throughout the series. To conclude, I'll just say that all in all, this has been a great series—always an entertaining read.