Friday Review: Heartless (Parasol Protectorate #4) by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back from her adventures on the Continent and reconciled with her werewolf husband, eight-months-pregnant Alexia Tarabotti has no time to rest, even with the immanent birth of her “infant inconvenience”. The ghost in Madame Lefoux’s workshop, near poltergeist stage, has revealed a plot to assassinate Queen Victoria. Never one to let something like a near-term pregnancy keep her from her duties to the supernatural and royal worlds, Alexia determines to get to the bottom of this threat. As usual, things are not as easily figured out as they seem, and Alexia finds herself not only trying to deal with an almost-dissipated ghost, but also new revelations about her husband’s Beta, a swarming Vampire Hive (which Alexia may or may not have had something to do with), and a giant, city-destroying mechanical octopus. Oh, and the demand from the supernatural world that she give up her almost-born daughter for adoption due to the child’s unusual parentage. Alexia is going to need all of her considerable wit and skill, along with her trusty parasol, to figure this one out.

“Blameless”, the third in the series, was a bit slow, as others have noted. Perhaps because we don’t have the wonderfully lovable and often contentious relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon, the third book did lack some of the charm of previous entries. But, here, with Alexia back in London and back with Conall and the Woolsey pack, all seems right in this alternate Victorian world. Or, at least, as right as it can be when it involves vampires, werewolves, a soulless, and various other natural and supernatural characters. Carriger’s signature wit and tongue-in-cheek treatment of the foibles of Victorian society are in full gear again. There is plenty of action, intrigue, and drama. (After all, what does one wear to a party that will likely feature a giant mechanical octopus bent on destruction and murder?) The back-and-forth banter between Alexia and Conall is always a delight, and showcases not only their individual strength of character but also the real and deep affection they share. Professor Lyall, Conall’s Beta in the Woolsey pack, has always had secrets and when some are revealed here, he becomes even more a favorite character. And Biffy- Lord Akeldama’s favorite drone turned involuntary werewolf, is the tragic figure here, having a most difficult time adjusting to his new life. Akeldama himself, as dramatic and snarky as ever, still proves that perhaps he is the wisest of all the cast. There are a couple plot twists that keep the plot from dragging, and the steampunk lean of the world-building is very good.

This comedy of manners series may be a bit over-the-top for some, but it is evident that Carriger loves her world and her characters, and her knowledge of Victorian English society helps give the series a believable background. Humor and style are woven all through the stories, and make them really fun. I am looking forward to reading the final book in the series, but will be sad to see it end.

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