It goes without mentioning again that this is book two of a series which I have not read the first of. Soulless, its parent, is supposedly more romantic than this very clear mystery. As other reviewers have pointed out, especially one from Croatia, the humor that is employed throughout this book consists of one note jokes that receive far more explanation than they deserve. I wanted to like this book based on its jacket description and its first twenty pages or so but it quickly became tiring.
The world that Gail Carriger sets before us is quite appetizing with werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and the “soulless” all residing in a steampunkish 1870’s London. Queen Victoria rules and the Grand Inquisition still happened except this time more centered around persecuting the supernatural. I am not the biggest history buff so these details, for the most part, were white noise. Our protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti or Lady Maccon or Lady Woolsey what have you (this is one of those books where character names although colorful can become hang-ups), demonstrates good spine and cutthroat manners throughout the book, however, she is by far not the sharpest parasol in the cabinet. At least, two “mysteries” remain far too shadowed in her mind, making us wonder how she can so blind.
The book takes breaks two or three times from her perspective for less than two or three pages which I think were lost opportunities and if they were not to be exploited I think they should have been left out. Speaking of leaving things out, any romance sidelines for much of this adventure. The book drums up these scenes, even leaving one on the inside jacket cover of the book: “They had negotiated a temporal relationship with the nightgown; most of the time she was able to wear it only out of the bed. He could be very persuasive when he put his mind, and other parts of his anatomy to it”. Suffice it to say, all the romance is left to passing jabs at clothing and its lack thereof.
Enough with my pet peeves, what did I like about the book? The way werewolves are presented is colorful. They have an in-between form called Anubis in which their head turns werewolf but the rest of the body remains man. They serve as one of the main overseas fighting forces for the British Empire. They put up these cool tents “government-issue self-expanding steam poles, boiled in large copper pots like so much metal pasta”.
Very few descriptions of vampire exist aside from Lord Akeldama and his pad. He as much of his kind is overly stylish. I like the fact that he owns “a fat calico” and “a gold brocade love seat with tasseled trim”. Carriger clearly knows a lot about fashion as evidenced by her hat-wearing aficionados, Mrs. Halfpenny also known as Ivy, who is perhaps the most annoying character fiction has ever presented (I’m sorry I think I have picked up Carriger’s equal pinache for exaggeration and what I term “British humor”).
The book could, in the end, be shortened by removing set pieces that exist clearly for their own show aka the dirigible or the hat store but that would be to remove what Carriger excels at.
I promise action does actually pick up within the last hundred pages that will have you glued. But it was too little too late. And as many might have mentioned that cliffhanger ending is a doozy. Bowls one head over heels.
I will probably read further in the series if only to see where else the world takes shape. Supposedly, the next book takes place in Italy. Also I forgot to mention that the “soulless” can exorcise other supernaturals’ powers. So if Alexia touches her husband, she de-activates him and, in so doing, ages him. This once again is another interesting spin on a book crammed full of humdingers, what it’s, and gadzooks. If only I were writing reviews for these books as they were coming out so that I could advise Gail to up the Madame Leroux count in future iterations. Madame Leroux, as a woman who dresses as a man and primes all the gadgetry that incases this world, she might be the sharpest tool in the tool shed. And certainly the most twirly.
|Recommendation:||Fascinating world-building. A display of a menagerie of fantasy creatures in an (a)historical setting.|
|Like this, like that:||Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter, the Alex Craft series by Kalayna Price and the Season of the Moon series by S. M. Reine.|
About the Blogger
I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada