My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Prudence is the first book in Gail Carriger’s “Custard Protocol” series, focusing on Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, daughter of Alexia Tarbotti, Lady Maccon of the “Parasol Protectorate” series.
Prudence, known as Rue to her friends, is a metanatural, the daughter of a werewolf and a preternatural. Where her mother simply strips supernaturals of their powers when she touches their skin, Rue not only takes away the power, but is able to use it herself, as long as she is within a certain distance. She is given an assignment by Lord Akeldama, the vampire who raised her. He is hot on the trail of a special new tea that he suspects is being grown undercover in India. He bequeaths Rue her own airship, which she has painted red with spots, and christens the Spotted Custard. With an assortment of her friends, some of whom are less than fond of others, she floats off, determined to find Dama his tea. What she finds is not only a grand new brew, but a plot involving a local uprising of possible supernaturals, a kidnapping, and a regiment of werewolves that she knows only too well.
Prudence is just as silly and wonderful as any of the original series. Some people do think Carriger goes a bit over the top with these steampunk comedy mysteries, and, to be fair, in many ways she does. The Victorian mores and fashions are exxagerated, the characters are larger than life, and the humor is rarely subtle. But the mystery is genuine, the plot moves along at a fast enough pace that you don’t have time to question the silliness, and it is just generally fun to read. I do enjoy good humor, and wouldn’t necessarily want a steady diet of this sort, but it’s a nice diversion now and then.
Steampunk, werewolves, vampires, shapechangers, airships, bloomers (or lack thereof), the distress of matching the perfect hat to one’s outfit, and, of course, a parasol or two- what more could you want in a funny, quick to read, delightfully humorous Victorian mystery?
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