Waistcoats &Weaponry (CBR7 #43)

Sophronia and her friends have grown on me. Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third book in Carriger’s prequel Finishing School series, is much more in line with the early Alexia Tarabotti Parasol Protectorate books (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, etc.) than the previous two books in this series. What we have in Waistcoats & Weaponry is a good old fashioned caper story. I was delighted.

Waistcoats& Weaponry picks up several months after Curtsies & Conspiracies. Our girls are continuing with their lessons at Madam Geraldine’s and Sophronia and Dimity are awaiting the chance to get off-dirigible to attend Sophronia’s brother’s masquerade engagement party (you can’t accuse Carriger of not giving a crazy level of detail to everything she writes).  Before they go we are treated to lessons with my favorite teachers – checking in with Professor Braithwope the vampire and Captain Niall the werewolf (did I not mention that Carriger’s Steampunk novels include vampires and werewolves and they play a major role in the politics of this alt-history? Because they both do.) However, before Captain Niall’s lesson on bladed fans (I want one) Sidheag is called away because of a letter from home.

What happens next is a series of events that lead to the caper. I don’t want to give much away, so know that *any* event that Sophronia attends *something* goes absolutely haywire. Sophronia, Dimity, Lord Felix Mersey, and Soap (with some help from Dimity’s brother) take off into the night to get Sidheag to Scotland. And hijinks ensue.

I loved this book because there was a mystery as part of the plot that isn’t straight forward, but pulls the world that Carriger is creating more clearly into focus while simultaneously setting up the world we find in the Parasol Protectorate books. It is tightly paced and fun. What more could you want from a Y.A. Steampunk book? The series has gotten stronger as it continues and I’ve gone from feeling “meh” about completing it to being quite excited to eventually borrow book the fourth from Crystal Clear (who graciously lent me her copy of this book as well).

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

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Curtsies & Conspiracies (CBR7 #30)

I admit that I had no immediate plans of reading the rest of the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger when I finished Etiquette & Espionage. Sure, the book contained all of the wit and witticism one would expect from a Carrier steampunk novel, but it just didn’t grab me the same way Soulless had a few years ago. Well, my friend Crystal Clear had the book the second ready and waiting and dropped it off for me to read. I’m really rather glad she did.

Curtsies & Conspiracies picks up almost immediately after E&E. Sophronia and her friends are in the middle of their first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, and it’s time for exams. Some do very well, some less well, but all are being put to further tests. These various plot threads all come to a head when Sophronia learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. There is a conspiracy afoot-(as the title of the book would have you be ready for) However, this conspiracy may have dire implications for both supernaturals and humans.

It’s this part of Carriger’s novels that I really enjoy, the solving of plots. Carriger weaves in old standbys from the novels of manners and overlays them with the idea that since so much of a woman’s life was and is about subterfuge; wouldn’t they make the best possible spies? Sophronia is certainly proving herself up to the task, but being a girl of 14, there are certain consequences she doesn’t foresee and Carriger doesn’t shy away from them. This was certainly an improvement in tone from the first outing in this series.

I find myself looking forward to the third book, Waistcoats & Weaponry whenever it finds its way to my door.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Timeless (CBR4 #38)

At long last I made it to book 5 of the Parasol Protectorate series. We find Lady Alexia Maccon, formerly Tarabotti, ensconced in married life to Lord Maccon, alpha of the now London Pack. At the conclusion of book four, Heartless, the pack had been forced to move into town to accommodate swarming vampires and Timeless finds the pack and their alphas two years later dealing with their daughter Prudence and her adoptive father Lord Akeldama. All of it is very complicated and perhaps the reason why book four was my least favorite of the series. But Timeless does not serve its purpose as the final chapter in the Parasol Protectorate series.

This go around Alexia receives a summons from Matakara, Queen of the Alexandria hive and the oldest living vampire. The Maccons, along with the Tunstells and their acting troupe, whom they take along as cover, set out for Egypt where, inevitably, they encounter adversity, mystery and adventure.  The entire first part of this book is a retread and filler, with the author re-visiting some of the more memorable places and characters from the previous books – the hat shop now run by Biffy, the Woolsey Hive (with notable appearances from Countess Nadasdy and Mabel Dair), the fleeting return of Felicity Loontwill in a flurry of spite, the sudden reappearance of Lady Kingair and a single appearance of Guatve Trouve, in order to deliver a replacement parasol after the two intervening years to name just a few.

After the lazy intro, the meat of the plot and the wrap up were rushed and left this reader feeling emotionally manipulated. But the most disappointing thing of all is that the main mysteries of the books – the Order of the Brass Octopus, the nature of the soulless/soulstealers – remain unanswered pretty much completely, unless you count the fact that Alexia’s abilities are discovered to be cancelled out when she is submerged in water. We also spend no time further investigating the BUR or the Shadow Council, or any other aspects of the supernatural world in Carriger’s universe.

Noting all that, there is one storyline in the book that kept me from giving up on it entirely.  The relationship between Biffy and Lyall. It was nice to have a homosexual relationship which was genuinely sweet and not reduced to stereotypes. I also appreciated the elegant solution introduced by Carriger to deal with Connall’s immortality and that our protagonist never voices any concern about becoming more aged than her love. But the thing I like most is Alexia’s personality remains very much her own, with her own separate interests, friends and responsibilities.  I am however ready to be done with Alexia and her world.

Heartless (CBR4 #7)

When I started the Cannonball Read last month I was so surprised to see how many people had trouble with the review; that reviews were the thing that kept people from making their goal, not the actual reading. I do now understand how that may happen. I finished reading Heartless by Gail Carriger almost a week ago and have been carrying it around in my purse as a reminder to write the review, the problem is I just don’t have much to say about the book.

Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. There were certain points in the story where I absolutely did not want to put it down and made excuses to keep reading. Was it earth shattering? Absolutely not. Nothing new happened here and no views about the world or writing were changed. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yep, and already have. Does it leave me wanting more? No, not really. That’s a bit of a copout. It did leave me wanting more, because Carriger has a habit of squashing the best action in the Parasol Protectorate books into the last 70 pages or so, but this could have been the end of the series given about 10 more pages dedicated to tying up loose ends.

Will I be reading Timeless when it comes out next month? Certainly. Will I be ravenously awaiting its arrival? No, I’ll be pleasantly surprised when the book gets passed down from my friend who’s reading them before me. I do look forward to more time with Professor Lyall (particularly after the revelations of his love life), Biffy, Ivy, and to a lesser extent Mme LeFoux and Channing. But I wonder after a rampaging octomaton, a political reshuffling, and the birth of the baby what could possibly be left to talk about?

Soulless (CBR4 #3)

Soulless by Gail Carriger sparked my interest when I saw a review of it over on io9.  I thought “hey that sounds like a fantasy/steampunk book I could get behind”. And that was great because we were working on Steampunk at work (I have a weird job) and I thought it would be a great place to jump in. Then I forgot all about it until several months later when a friend of a friend said she read it and enjoyed it. I subsequently begged to borrow said book and because she is a very nice person it was lent to me forthwith.

We meet Alexia Tarabotti right away, and I must say this character begins the story as she means to continue – with a healthy appetite and an ability to fight for herself, and I like that about her. The world Alexia inhabits is a re-imagined Victorian Era, if vampires and werewolves had been living openly in society for centuries. The author, Gail Carriger, does a great job of providing the ways in which this altered reality would affect the history of her new world (the pilgrims were leaving England for more than just religious reasons in this version of history).

Alexia is an odd creature even in this world. She introduces herself as an ugly spinster, on the shelf due to her ‘bad’ habits and Italian heritage. In fact, she harps on it so much you know the author is going to bring in someone who is of an opposing view (and she does). We also learn quite quickly that while vampires and werewolves are made from people with an excess of soul, Alexia is herself soulless.

This state makes her interactions with vampires and werewolves very different from regular humans. Skin to skin contact returns the supernatural to their human state. This also reasons to keep her identity a secret, since the soulless historically were supernatural hunters. But, needless to say, Alexia finds a way to be right in the middle of the supernatural set. And hi-jinks and mystery solving ensue.  I know I am leaving out the entire plot, and while the beginning of this novel is certainly an info dump, I wouldn’t want to spoil the story for anyone looking to read it, or its sequels for themselves (Soulless is the first in the Parasol Protectorate series, reviews for the rest of the books in the series will be following). There is a lot of great characterization here, characters who get stuck in your head and you wonder about, and I promise to talk about all of that more in my review of the next book, Changeless.