Happy Sci Fi Sunday! Continuing with our steampunk theme, I offer you my daughter Sarah's review of Gail Carriger's Blameless, the third book in the Parasol Protectorate Series. Enjoy!
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit Books
American release date: September 1st 2010
Format/Genre/Length: Novel/Fantasy/374 pages
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: Older Teen
Overall Personal Rating: A
Similar series/titles to check out: the Sookie Stackhouse series; Kieli; Last Exile
Alexia Tarabotti thinks her life is hard enough living as a preternatural socialite in steampunk Victorian England - but when her werewolf husband kicks her out of their home, she loses her position in the Shadow Council, and there are evil mechanical ladybugs trying to kill her, things go from bad to unbearable. There's only one option left to Alexia if she wants to stay alive - road trip to Italy, anyone?
After finding herself in a most delicate condition—something that should be impossible given that Lord Maccon's supernatural state disallows breeding of any type—Lady Alexia Maccon-Tarabotti now finds herself kicked out of Scotland and her husband's familial home and back into the not-so-loving arms of her own family, who have no qualms about letting Alexia know how they feel about having such a scandalized individual under their roof. Angry at Lord Maccon and now unceremoniously cut off from the protection of both the clan and the Shadow Council due to a curt dismissal from the Queen herself, Alexia turns to the usually comforting presence of her vampire best friend Lord Akeldama—only to find the man missing, leaving behind only a vague message about looking after his cat. When a mini-plague of mechanical ladybugs, along with practically all the vampires in London, force Alexia to protect herself in a most unladylike fashion, England starts looking less and less safe for a pregnant preternatural. With her father's faithful butler Floote and the French inventor Madame Lefoux at her side, Alexia embarks on a road trip of steampunk proportions with the final destination being Italy: an ultra-religious country openly hostile towards supernatural beings and filled with Templars and delicious pesto galore. Who would ever guess such a place would be the best sanctuary for Alexia Maccon to seek answers about her preternatural state? But even the very orange landscape of Florence conceals some of the greatest dangers that Alexia has ever faced.
As Alexia and her jolly 'parasol protectorate' find themselves getting deeper into a whole mess of mysteries in Italy, back in London the arrogant and heartbroken Lord Maccon has decided to treat his state of mind by getting thoroughly hammered, much to the chagrin of his beta, Professor Lyall, who is forced to hold together the Woolsey werewolf pack in his elective absence - which means handling everything from challenges from lone wolves to dealing with the pressure of an irate Shadow Council. But when the Woolsey pack find itself being pulled into the inner political business of vampires, mainly the disappearance of Lord Akeldama, Lord Maccon will have to sober up quick if he wants to help find his wife's good friend as well as get back into his beloved's good graces (if Alexia will still have him). That is, if Maccon can stop acting like an arrogant buffoon long enough to realize the worst kind of truth there is: that he was totally and utterly wrong.
Do you like fantasy books in alternative Victorian England where the technology and fashion of steampunk is part of everyday life? Do you like your werewolves and vampires and other supernatural things to wear fancy dress and follow the old fashioned rules of etiquette, usually to humorous effect? Do you like reading about a well-read half-Italian woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind and wields a parasol like a weapon (because it is)? And . . . you're not reading the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, now at three books and ongoing? For shame! Right now, there hasn't been a better time to jump into this excellent series, especially since the third book kicks off so many plots and subplots that will continue the story through several more volumes - all of them wickedly interesting and sure to make great reads in the next year. Plus, more Alexia Tarabotti! And that can never be a bad thing.
In the third book of the series chronicling Alexia's adventures in both the abnormal and the mundane, Blameless, she finds herself in a bigger pickle than ever before: her husband has deserted her; there's an impossible baby on the way; she has to live with her odious family yet again; her vampire BFF has gone AWOL with no clear reason why; it seems like everyone is pretty much out to kill her - including, of all things, mechanical ladybugs with very dangerous antennae. As usual, the amount of paranormal nonsense Alexia must go through on a daily basis is always strange and vastly interesting - as well as the fact that Alexia is less scandalized by these things happening to her as much as the fact that protecting herself from them means ruining all her best skirts and gowns in the process. In this volume, however, she has one more thing to worry about - she's pregnant. Her conversations with the 'infant-inconvenience' growing in her body are terribly amusing, and it makes one wonder what kind of mother Alexia will make if/when the child is born - or for that matter, what kind of father Lord Maccon might be.
Another new thing in Blameless is the new attention on Lady Tarabotti's preternatural soulless state, now more curious than ever seeing that she's with child by a werewolf, and such a union is rare if not impossible. As readers, we have spent two books following Alexia's life without a soul and have gotten used to her 'condition', so seeing characters like the German scientist Mr. Lange-Wilsdorf (who insists on addressing Alexia as the 'Female Specimen') and the church's preceptor (who in turn calls Alexia 'My Soulless One', capital letters and all) examine her like a slide underneath a microscope's gaze is unsettling in the strangest of ways. It's a good sign that Alexia's soullessness is going to become part of the ongoing story in a big way and I look forward to seeing how everything is resolved, if anything is. Add to this the dynamics of werewolf packs and vampire hives as well as the inner workings of England's high society set against a very gears-and-cogs world and it's plain to see that all the world-building and details built up in the first book are greatly paying off.
So, let's add it all up, shall we? In this book alone, a fearlessly stubborn and pregnant soulless female lead is dodging killer insects and odious vampires currently swarming a most steampunk London set in the Victorian age before being forced to flee with her stiff upper lipped butler and French inventor female friend to the land of tasty green sauce and dementedly religious Templars while her husband skulks around drunk on 'pickling' liquid and his beta is forced to pick up the pace of running the pack - and somewhere in the English countryside a fabulously distressed vampire is looking for his favorite drone and a research center disguised as a hat boutique is being overrun by ugly headgear by an unwitting Ivy Hisselpenny and her board-treading husband. With all theseawesome exciting things going on, you'd be demmed foolish to not give this book a whirl.
Overall Grade: A
The Alexia Tarabotti books continue to bring it in terms of adventure, humor, and stylish steampunk - whether in Victorian England or Templar-infested Italy.
In the Radius: Fans of Parasol Protectorate's steampunk-styled action should check out the anime series Last Exile, a sci-fi show created by Studio GONZO which has also been reviewed on the Anime Radius site.
Until Next time, take care!