An Alexia Tarabotti Novel
by Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit (September 1, 2010)
Orbit is an imprint of Hachette Book Group in the United States and Little, Brown Book Group in the United Kingdom.
I won this book from Just Another Book Blog
Blameless Blurb (SPOILER ALERT for Soulless & Changeless)
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. (http://www.gailcarriger.com/)
Gail Carriger's writing has the quality of transporting one to an alternate Victorian universe where Aether rules the world of science and science is advancing the world in many somewhat ridiculous ways, most of which seem unnecessarily complex machines. In this universe Supernatural creatures are out of the closet. Some detest them all and want to destroy them, others live in harmony with them. England has been the most welcoming of nations and attributes most of her Empire's strength to the strategic and financial acumen of the Vampires and her military success to the Werewolves. I am not sure what the Ghosts are creditted with other than spying. Her work is something to look forward to, to possibly hoard and keep for a time you know you will be able to sit uninterrupted for a period, possibly with a cup of Darjeeling, to enjoy and be entertained.
The first book, Soulless, was novel, fun, and impressive in its originality, scope and depth. The dialogue and narration was witty. It reminded me a bit of Wodehouse. I was enchanted with the strength of the main female character, Alexia Tarabotti, in no way other than good manners a typical Victorian woman. She is what is known as a "preternatural:" a being without a soul. That is a concept I found difficult and still haven't quite cottoned onto. She shows her stupid mother and step family by marrying Lord Conall Maccon, a major player in the BUR, the chief government agency for Supes. The book stood alone nicely, making one hope for a series.
The second, Changeless, was also funny with the introduction of some interesting new characters not routinely found in Victorian society, and expands the role of others. If a little too much time was expended explaining the principles behind fantasy machinery who was I to say. It didn't have enough of the relationship between Alexia and Conall's chemistry doesn't seem as strong as it was in Soulless. It is that lack of connection, and an absence from each other, as much as the mysterious humanizing force un-supernaturalizing all paranormal creatures within a certain zone that leads to the book's climax and major cliffhanger. The absence does serve to strengthen Alexia's independence; she is no weak female to be rescued by a big strong werewolf. She saves him as much as her does her.
Blameless opens with Alexia well and truly up a creek having been turned out, she is forced back to return to the bosom of her self-centered, unintelligent, and unloving family. She quits them to move in with the one person England now sees as more outrageous than she has been painted, her friend Lord Akeldama, except he has mysteriously disappeared. As she is attacked by poisonous mechanical ladybugs she realizes she is no longer under the protection of the wolf pack, must leave England and seek information on her condition and how it is possible. She and her secretary, and her very loyal friend Madame Lefoux, fly through France to get to Italy. In the meantime Conall is soused, and is sobered up by fighting a challenger and by his Beta. He comes to his senses and realizes Alexia would never have betrayed him as he has accused her. He sets off after her.
I have never been in Alexia's condition, having to sell her belongings to travel, in danger and rejected, I am amazed she is not thoroughly self-pitying and depressed. I sure as heck know that any spouse of mine would have so much groveling to do that he would benefit from the purchase of knee pads. I was quite angry for the humiliation and danger his mis-trust and stupidity caused Alexia and her condition.
Fast paced, and yet with a lot of the adventure not truly advancing the plot but keeping us busy as the trio make their way through France and over the Alps, a ridiculous incarceration with the intention of dissection with the Templars who have been painted throughout fantasy literature as both good and evil, leads the book to its exciting culmination.
But, I did not feel this book strengthened the series. Still in a league of its own, I thought this book lacked the wit, direction and emotional connections that had made the first to so lively and engrossing. This felt a bit like marking time. And, so I will eagerly await the next book hoping it is a bit stronger than Blameless. It is likely Miss Carriger was under pressure to finish Blameless in a hurry, and that pressure somewhat dulled her normal super-shiny brilliance. Who knows why things like this happen. I would strike not quite two points off my non-existent five-point scale. That would leave us around three-and-a-half points over all, about two for romance, four-ad-a-half for characters, four for plot. Well worth your time but don't expect the same degree of intensity as with Soulless.