OF VAMPIRES, WEREWOLVES, AND TREACLE TART
Lady Alexia Maccon, formerly Tarabotti, is back in this fourth installment of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate Series, Heartless. This time we find Alexia solving yet another mystery within the English realm. An unidentified ghost has manifested itself to Alexia with a distorted, incomplete, choppy message: someone is plotting to murder the Queen. As the acting soulless muhjah in the Queen’s Shadow Council, and naturally curious, she sets out to discover who is behind the threat.
Before she can even begin her investigation, however, Alexia herself, is attacked by a horde of zombie porcupines in the middle of a London street! Being attacked by anyone or anything is not new to the preternatural, who has survived many an attempt on her life in the past. But, alas! Her trusty parasol, loaded with all kinds of armaments, fails her when she needs it most! Thankfully, Lady Maccon happens to be married to a werewolf. Conall Maccon fights the strange creatures and rids his wife of this latest nuisance. So..someone is plotting to kill the Queen and another someone is trying to murder Alexia as well. Could the two attacks be connected? And who is behind them?!
In addition to the whole murder problem, Alexia now has her younger sister, Felicity, living in the Maccon’s new London townhouse. And the once fashion-focused Felicity is now wearing drab, neutral dresses and old shawls, and has apparently joined the suffragette movement! Oh, how their Mama must love that! But is Felicity’s story really the truth, or is she involved with something far more sinister?
And last, but certainly not least, Alexia will be conducting her investigation while being eight months pregnant with a child that should not even exist. Who knows what which parent the little one will take after, the soulless mother, who can nullify a supernatural’s powers by touch, or the werewolf father, who turns into a beast during full moon? The mystery surrounding the child has humans, werewolves and vampires curious and at arms.
When I was only a few pages into Carriger’s first novel in the Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless, I knew I was going to be buying the next book immediately. Carriger writes with a charm and wit that is addicting and once you enter the world of Alexia Tarabotti, you are lost to its magic and steam powered machinery. Carriger’s novels are set in Victorian England, where vampires and werewolves are accepted into society, and indeed, often admired for their supernatural state. Supernaturals are invited to all the best social gatherings and many of London’s finest aspire to be a vampire drone or werewolf clavigar (These are individuals who, in hopes of being turned, join their chosen supernatural household as a helper, serving until their host decides to turn them).
Carriger’s novels fall under the steampunk category, a genre of books and movies often set in Victorian England, but featuring steam-based technology and machinery far more advanced than what was actually present during the time period. Great examples of steampunk in film include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Stardust, Wild Wild West, and The Prestige. A new piece of steampunk technology is introduced in each novel, getting progressively grander in each book. I’ll leave the latest invention a secret, so you can marvel at it when you read it! 😉
Over the course of the past four books, I have grown to love Alexia and her friends, each of them distinct from the others, with their own personality and way of speaking. Carriger flushes out her characters incredibly well, and you can’t help but appreciate Alexia’s wit, sarcasm, determination and stubbornness. She’s a great character to read, her thoughts on fashion, society, supernaturals and especially her family, often causes one to laugh out loud. She is a feisty, intelligent and humorous character that is an absolute joy to read. She gets into much more trouble than a proper Victorian lady should, but she handles herself well and, with the help of her husband and his werewolf pack, her best friends, Ivy, Lord Akeldama and Madam Lafoux, she always manages to avert disaster. Just barely, but she does!
I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves fantasy and/or steampunk. Its an extremely fun read and once I started it, I truly, could not put it down! After the last pages of each book has been turned, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next in the series. Especially, when the author ends the book with such a cliffhanger! The only bad thing? …I have to wait till March to read the next one.