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

The Hollows, III

The Hollows third book is Every Which Way But Dead.  Here was start out with Rachel Morgan attempting to outsmart a demon. Rachel Morgan isn’t as smart as she thinks she is.  While she manages to get the demon off her back (literally and figuratively) for at least a little while, she ends up freeing his former familiar, an Elf named Ceri.  This just adds to piss off Big Al and make him even more determined to break Rachel to him.  Note to Rachel: Don’t screw with demons.

Not long after this, her boyfriend Nick ends up skedaddling out of Cincinnati. He can’t handle his role as Rachel’s familiar.  Apparently it’s painful and/or uncomfortable. The only description we have of the process of Rachel pulling “ever after” through Nick is the one time she purposefully did it, he ended up having convulsions.  So safe to assume this is not fun at all.

Hurting from losing her boyfriend, Rachel’s a bit more reckless than usual, which is saying something. She ends up agreeing to help the one person she hates most in the world, Trent Kalamack, and also takes up with sexy vamp Kisten, former scion to Piscary the master vamp that Rachel helped but behind bars.

Spoiler alert: In this book we learn that Rachel is one of only two people on earth who can kindle demon magic.  The other one just happens to be the one person that both Kisten and Trent Kalamack want out of the way. It seems like he’s been trying to horn in on both Piscary’s Inderland empire and Kalamack’s illegal drug trade. Rachel takes care of this problem, and her issue with Big Al the demon by trading this fellow witch to Big Al in exchange for her freedom.

Rachel Morgan, while still something of a head strong moron, is getting a bit better in that department. The series is still captivating and I’ve already finished the fourth book, A Fistful of Charms.  All in all, a solid B+ book that left me itching for more.

On a completely unrelated side note: Amazon’s Kindle now offers out of print Simon R. Green books. I just got Blood and Honor, Ghostworld, Mistworld and Hellworld. I have been looking for these books in print for the longest time with no luck.  Now I finally got them and my Simon R. Green collection is complete, with the exception of A Hard Day’s Knight, which hasn’t come out yet. 😀

The Hollows, Book I

I just finished up Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison. I liked it well enough that I’m contemplating picking up the next one, The Good, The Bad and the Undead. Apparently Ms. Harrison is something of a Clint Eastwood fan. Rockin’.

Anyway, Dead Witch Walking features witch Rachel Morgan.  It starts out introducing to Rachel’s dead-end job hunting down supernatural creatures who break the law, in this case a leprechaun who was busted for tax evasion.  Turns out that Rachel’s really struggled in her job for some time now, no fault of her own we later find out.  She decides to quit, a risky proposition that could mean her death, and form a detective/bounty-hunting type business of her own.

Rachel successfully quits from the Federal Inderland Bureau (FIB)-the federal agency responsible for catching supernatural troublemakers-but brings her incredibly successful friend/roomie Ivy Tamwood (living vampire) with her.  Because of this, she starts getting attacked left, right and center from everything from faeries to demons, all of whom are being paid to hunt her down and dispose of her by her former living vampire boss.

Rachel survives by a combo of sheer luck and her friends Ivy and a pixie named Jenks.  Determined to get the death threat removed, she goes after a big bad guy by the name Trent, a city councilman.  Trent is his first name and because I don’t have the book up on my Kindle, I don’t have his last name. Read the book to find out! 😉 At any rate, Trent is into everything from smuggling Biodrugs (huuuuuuuuuuuuuugely taboo in this culture) to regular type drugs (called Brimstone). If she can bring him to the attention of the FIB’s rival bureau (the entirely human run IS), she can get them to pay the bounty money to lift the death threat.

I particularly enjoy the pixie character of Jenks.  He’s funny, brave and snarky.  I’m not to sure on Ivy yet, she seems a little spoiled to me.  Rachel Morgan is an acceptable enough female lead, but she is stubborn to the point of stupidity at times.  The nice thing is, she starts to recognize that at the end and attempts to change that.  It doesn’t take right away, making her a character to relate to.  She’s not perfect, she’s not gorgeous.

This could be a female Dresden Files, but with a little less (so far) the-world-actually-is-against-me angst. I rate this a solid B book, but with the caveat that I think it’s sort of like a chick flick only a novel.  Chi-novel?  While I can see my husband enjoying the Dresden Files (if he ever gave them a chance), I  don’t think he’d enjoy this as much, even with the Clint Eastwood theme names. Boys beware!