The Parasol Protectorate

I just zoomed through the latest two Parasol Protectorate novels, Blameless and Heartless. They were fantastic! I love the character of Alexia Tarabotti. A lot of the lead women in urban fantasy novels are hard as nails, fist-fighting, heavy drinking, one-of-the-boys types. I like that and understand that. But Alexia is a no-nonsense feminine leading lady. She’s a proper Victorian lady…for the most part. It isn’t her fault that her best friend is a vampire.  Warning: here follows spoilers.

At any rate, in Blameless Alexia gets kicked out of her family home once it becomes clear that she’s with child. Normally it isn’t a big deal for a married woman to be pregnant but with her it is. Her husband is a werewolf which means that he is, like a vampire, technically dead. So technically, no little swimmers. Her husband, her parents and even the honorable Queen Victoria thinks she’s cheated on Lord Maccon.

This bugged the shit out of me (pardon the language). Alexia is, as covered in the previous books, a preternatural. In this series, it means that when she touches a vampire or a werewolf skin to skin, she restores them to their original mortal state. Original mortal state. Meaning they should be more than capable of having little kiddies. I guess I can forgive the situation a bit by the fact that the author explains that female preternaturals are a rarity. I guess I can suspend disbelief to them being so rare that there hasn’t been one in the whole of written history. If I must.

At any rate, Alexia and her footman Floote and her new friend Madame Lefoux leave England in a hurry after the news broke all over polite society. Oh yeah, and the London hive vampires are after her. Seems that they feel the infant-inconvenience, as Alexia calls it, is an abomination. They’re chased all the way across France and into Italy, where because of the Vatican and the Knights Templar (yes, apparently they were never slaughtered and disbanded in this timeline) kill all vampires, werewolves and their respective human hangers on on sight. But they aren’t fond of Alexia either.

Seems that preternaturals, being soulless, are beyond salvation of the church and are therefore demons. That also kind of bugs me, but I’m not a religious person by nature so it could just be a personal thing. 🙂 Meanwhile, the drunken Lord Maccon is finally talked around by the lovely Professor Lyall, his beta, after the Maccon stops drinking formaldehyde and sobers up. Once he realizes what a complete and utter prat he’s been, he issues a public apology and races after her…just in time to “rescue” from the clutches of the evil (not really an exaggeration) Templars. And by rescue I mean pick up the pieces of Alexia rescuing herself, Floote and Lefoux. As usual.

In Heartless, whose title I still don’t quite understand, Alexia is VERY pregnant and has to foil a plot to kill the queen. As a newly reinstated member of Queen Victoria’s Shadow Council, she is contact by a ghost messenger with a vague plot about the queen being in danger. So she puts the dewan (leading lone werewolf) and the potentate (the always loveable Lord Akeldama) on alert, not the mention her husband and the BUR.

Meanwhile, she has to deal with the infant-inconvenience and the newly made werewolf/former vampire drone Biffy. Biffy was made a werewolf at the end of the last book because it was either that or he would be very much dead and gone. Biffy was Lord Akeldama’s favored drone and the pair were (shockingly in the Victorian era) quite in love. Biffy is not taking his change from potential vampire to werewolf well at all. He can’t control his changes as well as the others and it causes all sorts of grief for the pack, Biffy and Alexia, as she has to turn him human again to calm him down. Not an easy thing to do when eight months along.

Not to mention poor Madame Lefoux is acting very strange and withdrawn from Alexia. Lefoux’s dead aunt, Beatrix “formerly” Lefoux, is losing her hold on the world and becoming a very vague ghost. This is an upsetting time for Madame Lefoux but there’s something else going on…

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Normally I can see an ending coming after a little while but I was honestly surprised to find out that the plot against the queen wasn’t referring to Queen Victoria but the the vampire queen, Countess Nadasdy. This leads to a very interesting shake up of the social dynamic in London between the vampires and the werewolves. Not to mention Alexia ends up giving birth inside a giant, steam driven octomaton built by Madame Lefoux.

I highly recommend both books. A

First Intro to Steampunk

Courtesy of gailcarriger.comSome time ago I stumbled upon information about steampunk. I’m not entirely certain now what it was that first brought that to my attention, but as a historian, I was intrigued.  The Victorian Era is also referred to the Industrial Age and the Golden Age, depending on who you talk to and what exactly you’re talking about.  Depending on your social status, the era could have been awesome in terms of the new technology and the ability to freely travel or it could royally suck with terrible work and health conditions. And forget about being a woman in that day and age.

At any rate, I was intrigued, but it took me a while to try out anything.  Because I’m sort of new to the steampunk genre, I’m not entirely sure if these books qualify as steampunk or just as historical fantasies.

First up: Soulless by Gail Carriger.  I was drawn to this because the main female character doesn’t quite fit into the typical urban fantasy female lead mold.  Sure she’s tough, self-sufficient and speaks her mind (much to her mother’s horror), but she’s described as dark, swarthy, large-nosed and plump.  She’s not lithe, fit, svelte, atheletic etc that most of the female leads I read about are described as.  It’s a nice change.

Soulless mixes steampunk, romance and fantasy by talking the soulless character of Alexia Tarabotti (an English lady of Italian descent) and crossing her path with the alpha werewolf of Lord Conall Maccon (and his pack) and vampire Lord Akeldama (a lovely unconventional vampire).  Alexia and Maccon have to solve the mystery of why some vampires are mysteriously disappearing before things get out of hand (terrible summary, I know but I read this one a while ago. Sue me).  Alexia is, as many of my favorite characters are, a wise ass. And she’s not afraid to use it. Or her silver and wood reinforced black parasol, her favorite accessory.

The follow up to Soulless is Changeless. Alexia and Maccon, (SPOILER ALERT) married after the end of the first novel, have to solve the mystery of why members of the London pack (Lord Maccon’s pack) have suddenly stopped being able to change into werewolves.  It leads them all the way to Scotland, to Lord Maccon’s original pack, who also cannot change.  Things don’t end too well for the married couple, sorry to say. Not that anyone important dies, but still, Gail Carriger leaves us hanging on that. I haven’t gotten the third book Blameless yet, but Christmas is coming in a couple months, so we’ll see.  I highly recommend both the fist two books, A.

Next post: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooke