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Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Author:  Gail Carriger  
Plot Type:  Steampunk Romance 
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality2; Humor—3   
Publisher and Titles:  Orbit
          Prudence (3/2015)
          Imprudence (7/2016)
          Book 3 (2018)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 8/12/2016 to include a review of Imprudence, the second novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first novel.

                         NOVEL 2: Imprudence                       
     Rue and the crew of the Spotted Custard return from India with revelations that shake the foundations of England's scientific community. Queen Victoria is not amused, the vampires are tetchy, and something is wrong with the local werewolf pack. To top it all off, Rue's best friend Primrose keeps getting engaged to the most unacceptable military types.

     Rue has family problems as well. Her vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is crazy, and her obstreperous mother is both. Worst of all, Rue's beginning to suspect what they really are... is frightened


     As the story begins, Rue and her crew have been back in England for only two weeks following their adventures in India, during which Rue dabbled in some unsanctioned diplomacy. The Queen is furious that Rue established a concordance with a group of were-monkeys all on her own—an agreement that keeps them forever out of government hands and safe from being hunted or enslaved...or taxed. The result of the Queen's anger is that she strips Rue of her permission to kill rogue supernaturals (aka sundowner status) as well as "all other legal protections and rights previously granted unto you." 

     Rue had no idea that she was under some type of special protection, and, unfortunately, she doesn't ask anyone what the consequences of the Queen's actions might mean to her personal safety. A further complication is that Rue has now turned twenty-one, which means that legally she is considered to be an adult. At first, Rue views her adult status as a gift of freedom, but she soon discovers that it also brings heartbreak and danger. Luckily, Rue's vampire father, Dama, has given her a ballistic birthday gift for her ship—a large shiny rapid-fire gun (a Gatling gun) because, "as he said, she was all grown up and a fully fledged independent now, and knowing her family propensities, she'd need a ruddy big gun." As the plot plays out, that gun will be put to frequent use.

     Before Rue can deal with her own life, she has to help out her parents. Her father Conall, head of the local werewolf pack, is succumbing to the Alpha's Curse, which is causing him to show signs of senility and to erupt into erratic violence. Because Conall serves as the center focus of his pack, his loss of mental acuity is causing the pack to fall apart. The only solution is to transport Lord and Lady Maccon to Egypt, where the God-Breaker Plague will keep Conall in human form and the couple can live out their remaining years in relative peace.

     As Rue and her crew get the Spotted Custard ready for the trip, armed marauders attack the ship. A series of similar attacks complicates Rue's journey, but her crew is always able to drive off the perpetrators. This is largely due to the fact that Rue has a fierce were-lion on board her ship: Tasherit Sekhmet, who befriended Rue and (especially) Rue's best friend, Primrose, on their trip to India. Tasherit has trained the crew well, turning them into skilled crossbow fighters with deadly aim. At first, Rue believes that the attackers are after one of Quesnel's new inventions, but then she begins to believe that they are after Tasherit. 

     The social situation on the Spotted Custard is complicated. Initially, Rue and Quesnel are barely civil to one another because Rue is angry that Quesnel went off to Egypt without explanation, leaving her behind. Rue and Quesnel had reached an agreement (in book one) that Quesnel would give Rue "French lessons" (if you know what I mean) so when Quesnel left so abruptly, her feelings were deeply hurt. Soon, though, the two make up and the lessons begin, with lots of euphemistic, nongraphic description. For example, early in their bedroom "lessons" (prior to their ultimate consummation), when Quesnel is working hard to keep himself under control,  he explains, "I don't want to skip too far ahead. You cannot be expected to speak French in full sentences, having only learned a few words." 

     Meanwhile, Prim has become engaged for the second or third time, not because she has fallen in love, but because she believes that it is her duty to marry and raise a family. When Sekhmet continues to pay her closeVERY closeattention, Prim gets all flustered because she doesn't understand how she can be attracted to another female. 

     The plot unfolds in a series of shipboard scenes that alternate between silly relationship kerfuffles and sneak attacks by various brigands. Towards the end, certain events force the group to sail into unknown territories at the source of the Nile, where the inevitable showdown scene brings a most unwelcome surprise for Rue.

     The most unpleasant character in this book turns out to be Prim's brother, Percival Tunstell, an extremely intelligent, well-educated, narcissistic young man with the mindless stubbornness and lack of emotional control that one would expect in a two-year-old. He manages to alienate just about everyone on board with his selfish and thoughtless behavior. In fact, after Percy’s shipmates discover that his self-centered arrogance has put one of them in extreme danger, they all turn on him. Tasherit calls him a muttonhead and an insect, and his sister labels him an idiot. Rue calls him an “insufferable outstanding rotter, not to mention a terrific chump” and threatens to “jettison you in the middle of the nearest desert.” So, forget my comment in my review of book one about the possibility that Percy might become one of Rue's love interests. That's never going to happen.

     If you are a PARASOL PROTECTORATE (PP) fan, you will probably enjoy this book because it has the same type of nonsensical characters, silly humor, and outlandish plot progression. I do recommend that you read the PP books first, because you need to know all of the details of Rue's childhood to understand the complex relationship she has with Dama and with Lord and Lady Conall. You also need to understand Carriger's definition of "soulless" as it relates to Rue and to Lady Conall.

     Click HERE to go to a page on Carriger's blog entitled "Egypt from a Dirigible: Imprudence and Timeless." Click HERE for some reference links from Carriger on her research for this novel. Click HERE for a short list of "special cookies" that Carriger has scattered throughout ImprudenceClick HERE to go to the page for Imprudence where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

    The series is set in the same alternate steampunk Victorian world as Carriger's PARASOL PROTECTORATE (PP) and FINISHING SCHOOL (FS) series. It takes place twenty-two years after the end of PP and 44 years after FS. The main characters of the new series are the children born to PP characters near the end of that series. Click HERE to go to my review of the PP series, which includes details about the world-building and links to pages on Carriger's web site for even more information. In this new series, many references are made to characters and events from the PP series, so I recommend that you read that series before you begin this one. Following are profiles of the stars of this series: 
> Lady Prudence (Rue) Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, biological daughter of Alexia Tarabotti Maccon (soulless metanatural) and Lord Conall Maccon (head of the London Werewolf Pack) and adopted daughter of Lord Akeldama (aka Dama), wealthy vampire Rove. To understand the relationship among Rue and her three parents, you will need to read book four of the PP series, Heartless. Rue has a metanatural ability to "steal" the abilities of any preternatural she touches skin to skin, but only at night and only as long as she remains in relatively close proximity to her "victim." For example, she can steal a werewolf's furry form along with its size, strength, and enhanced senses. As long as Rue maintains the supernatural victim's form, he or she remains in a vulnerable, mortal human state. Thus, you can imagine how unpopular her particular talent is in the preternatural community. The vampires call her soul-stealer, and the werewolves call the flayer.
> The Honorable Miss Primrose (Prim) Tunstell, daughter of Ivy Tunstell, Alexia's best friend in the PP series. In PP, Ivy was renowned for her colorful, over-the-top wardrobe, particularly her outrageous hats. Ivy became a vampire queen and a baroness late in the PP series, but her twins (Prim and Percival) are human. Prim has inherited her mother's fashionista qualities, but doesn't go quite as far overboard, except for her hats.
> Professor Percival Tunstell, Prim's scholarly twin brother, a good-looking young man who spends all his time in his dusty, cluttered research library and rarely lifts his head from his books.
> Quesnel Lefoux, human son of Madame Lefoux (from PP), now ward of Countess Nadasdy, vampire queen of the Woolsey Hive. He has been Rue's nemesis since childhood and is now a handsome playboy. Rue is attracted to him (and he to her) but she continues to regard him as a frenemy who cannot be fully trusted. Quesnel has always been one of the few males Rue had ever met whom she could not manage, and that always keeps her off balance when she is in his flirtatious presence. "As a result, he was prone to either making her head spin with banter, or overwhelming her with the desire to dump tea on his head, sometimes both at the same time.
     Click HERE to read deleted scenes from CUSTARD PROTOCOL (CP). Click HERE to go to the CP page on Carriger's web site, which includes links to more information about the series.

               NOVEL 1:  Prudence               

     Introducing the Custard Protocol series, in which Alexia Maccon's daughter Prudence travels to India on behalf of Queen, country...and the perfect pot of tea. When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama ("Rue" to her friends) is bequeathed an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female under similar circumstances would doshe christens it the Spotted Custard and floats off to India. Soon, she stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis (and an embarrassing lack of bloomers), Rue must rely on her good breedingand her metanatural abilitiesto get to the bottom of it all.


     As the series opens, Dama has a task for Rue. He wants her to float away to India in a dirigible to set up his new tea industry. In this alternate Britain, the East India Company is completely controlled by the vampire hives, but Dama—as an independent rove (lone) vampirewants in on the huge profits of the tea trade. He has found a delicious new tea plant, and he needs Rue to go on a covert journey to set up his fledgling operation. To sweeten the deal, Dama gifts Rue with a brand-new state-of-the-art dirigible, which she asks him to paint red with black spots (like a lady bug). Then, she names the airship the Spotted Custard (because she loves custard and the ship has spots). To head her crew, she hires her three friends: Prim, to keep everything organized; Percival, to navigate and to research Indian history, geography, and culture; and Quesnel to serve as the chief engineer.

     The first part of the book follows the intrepid quartet on their floating journey from London to Bombay. Along the way, Rue meets up with three very different creatures: a huge lioness who steals her parasol, a beautiful woman who gives her a message that Rue doesn't understand, and another woman who gives her a book sent to her by Dama. None of these meetings or messages make any sense at the time, but eventually all becomes clear. Carriger has obviously given much thought to her world-building for this section, particularly when it comes to the steampunk elements related to navigating through the aetherosphere. For example, the dirigible relies on its Mandenall Pudding Probe to emit "a squirt of viscous milky liquid, not unlike rice pudding" as a sign that the airship is directly below the correct aether current. Most aspects of this strange world are rather nonsensical and kind of wacky (like the pudding-oozing probe), but in the end, they add to the entertainment value of the story if you just give up and float along with them. (Actually, the most outrageous of Rue's adventures takes place later in the book in chapter 12: "Hijacking an Elephant Head.")

     The second part of the book describes Rue's adventures in India, where she finds herself in danger more than once and is eventually separated (briefly) from the rest of her crew. Her adventures in the Indian jungle are preposterous, but mostly entertaining, as she meets some strange preternaturals who, at first, view her as their enemy. Add in a British military brigade and the former Scottish werewolf pack (now headquartered in India), and the situation gets totally out of control. Another element in this part of the story is that Rue and her friends learn that Indian vampires (called Rakshasas) are nothing like British vampires and that there are shape shifters in this world who are not werewolves in their animal form.

     Meantime, Rue and Quesnel share a kiss, and Rue asks him to be her tutor in all matters of romance. We'll see how this plays out, but at first glance, I think it's pretty obvious what will happen. The only possible ringer might be Percival, who remains in the background, but might eventually emerge as a romantic playera third side to a possible romantic triangle. There are very few clues that this will happen, but I doubt that Carriger will allow Rue to drop right into a romance with Quesnel without any competition.

     Just one last quibble: My hard-cover copy of this book is sprinkled with spelling errors, the kind that are not picked up in an auto-spellcheck. For example, on page 45, "the drones were re-enacting the balcony seen from Romeo and Juliet." Of course, they were playing out a scene, not a seen. On page 207, we have this sentence: "Had he be faking…". Obviously, the correct word here is been, not be. These are just two examples taken from many similar errors. Surely the copy-proofer should have caught these mistakes before the book went to press.

     If you enjoyed Carriger's PARASOL PROTECTORATE series, I'm sure that you will also enjoy THE CUSTARD PROTOCOL books. CP's four starring characters are all well developed, likable, and open to further growth and depth, so the next book should be just as entertaining as this one. According to Carriger's web site Q&A, she has contracted for two books in this series, but if this one sells well, there may be more. One caveat: I highly recommend that you read the PP books first because Prudence contains numerous references to characters and events from the PP series. 

     Click HERE to go to the page for Prudence where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

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