★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Parasol Protectorate boxed set by Gail Carriger| October 2012 | Orbit | Paperback $39.99
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?
Based on the reactions of most of my friends, both online and IRL (admittedly too small a sample size to be scientific), it seems to me that a reader either loves or hates this series.
I’ll be up-front about it: I come down on the love side. I didn’t really expect to. Based on my lukewarm feelings towards Gail Carriger’s YA series and the descriptions of Soulless et al. as “paranormal romance” and “urban fantasy” I didn’t expect to care much for these books. But I did care for them, so much so that I returned my library copy of Soulless early and bought the entire boxed set for me to own and devour all in one gulp.
(I’m also going to admit that I was completely biased against these books because of their covers. My bad, yo.)
The scene is set: Victorian London, where supernaturals and a single preternatural (our heroine) live more-or-less openly and more-or-less (in this case, less) peacefully alongside regular folk. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the slightly mad scientists and their extremely steampunk-y inventions. And the tea. There’s plenty of tea to go around. And really, you can’t help but brew a pot or two while reading. It’s better if you can find some nice little floral patterned porcelain cups and saucers to go with, but we can’t be too picky.
A small caveat: I’m a bit of a prude, and so found myself blushing at a few scenes. The “romance” parts of this series are more along the lines of what you find in Fabio-emblazoned bodice rippers rather than the fade-to-black sorts of scenes that I prefer. But the story as a whole was soaked in such a nice mix of winking/dry/exaggerated bits of humor that the love scenes came across as more naughtily playful than flat-out pornographic. And really, these scenes did lean more towards the fade-to-black method as the series developed (thank goodness things didn’t progress in the opposite direction).
Oh, all right, another caveat: all of the -isms. Racism, and its close cousin Colonialism. And Sexism, though of a slightly less jarring form than the previous. I suppose these things might be unavoidable in an historical fiction set in England of the late 1800’s, but still. I wonder if certain small things might not have been handled with more sensitivity? The passing mentions are buried in piles of more pleasing stuff, but, you know, microaggressions make me sad.
5 stars for sure, though I’m waffling about whether I want to give this a spot on my “favorites” shelf. Would that be a move that I would question later because right now I’m on a book high and can’t be trusted to make rational decisions? Or is this a series that I’ll return to again and again because it really is just that fun? Time will tell.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I simply must track down some more tea.
- Official website/blog of Gail Carriger
- Gail Carriger’s YA series, Finishing School
- Soulless Victorian dress-up doll game from publisher Orbit
Publication information: Carriger, Gail. Soulless. New York: Orbit, 2009. Print. ; Carriger, Gail. Changeless. New York: Orbit, 2010. Print. ; Carriger, Gail. Blameless. New York: Orbit, 2010. Print. ; Carriger, Gail. Heartless. New York: Orbit, 2011. Print. ; Carriger, Gail. Timeless. New York: Orbit, 2012. Print.
Source: Purchased for personal collection from Amazon.com
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.