Few things in life are more delightful than a new Alexia Tarabotti book. In HEARTLESS, the best installment since the debut, every single page is embellished with equal parts wit and farce. The Parasol Protectorate series, a comedy of manners set in a paranormal steampunk Britain, chronicles the adventures of Lady Alexia Tarabotti and her latest escapades involve attempting to thwart as assassination plot on the Queen, keeping the local vampire hive from killing her yet again, and finding a solution to a former vampire wannabe's unwilling induction to the werewolf pack...all while eight months pregnant.
I'm going to be using the word delightful a lot in this review because it so perfectly describes nearly every aspect of HEARTLESS from the absurdly charming characters, to the outlandishly entertaining plot, and the endlessly witty--and thoroughly British--writing. Never a dull page, never a flat line, and never a wasted opportunity for preposterous frivolity. All of the characters we've grown to love and loath over the series are present in HEARTLESS, most prominently Lord Akeldama, Biffy, and Professor Lyall. We learn a number of very revealing details about the latter as well as Alexia's father.
One of my complaints about the last two books was how little page time Alexia and her husband shared since their relationship and interaction was one of the things that made the first book so fantastic. I have nothing to complain about on that point in HEARTLESS. Alexia and Conall are together in nearly every other scene. I loved watching him fuss over her because of her pregnancy and then grit his teeth when he had to let her run off--or waddle off as Alexia called walking at eight months pregnant--into potential danger.
The end of HEARTLESS was unbelievably good. So much is set up for the next book, specifically regarding the infant-inconvenience. Exactly what kind of baby will a preternatural and a werewolf have? I would never have guessed and I'm predicting it will add significantly to the already very unique mythology in this series.
Overall, book four in this indomitably clever and charming series, is as delightful as I hoped. The fifth book in The Parasol Protectorate series is called TIMELESS and will be published on March 1, 2011. It is currently the last book planned in the series, but I will always hope for more. We will be getting a spin-off YA series set in the same universe twenty-five years earlier called The Finishing School series. The first book is tentatively titled ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE and will be published in 2012.
Kissing. References to homosexuality. References to sex
on June 28, 2011
Heartless distills the best of Carrigan's writing so far. Believe it or not, Lord Akeldama is even pithier than before, and his couture miles more magnificent. (I know, we thought it wasn't possible.) Carriger has created fabulous characters with lovely whimsical traits and drives, and in this book, significantly more polished than those previous, they really shine. They positively bask in their individuality and in their relationships. The plot works, and there are no silly contrivances that seem to be simply calculated ploys for laughter and romantic angst. There's still romance and hilarity, mind you, it just works that much better.
Ivy is back--and readers, she is better than ever. Alexia's pregnancy brain and the solicitousness of her pack and butler are superb. The parasol protectorate is on a high in this book--if you loved the first book, and if you enjoy the idea, the banter, the laced civility and the sheer outrageousness of Ms Tarabotti, you'll be rolling with laughter and pleasure with this one.
I'd earlier said that Soulless was the best in the series--but that was before Heartless. Trippingly fun, delicious, and perfect with tea and treacle tart.
I wasn't a big fan of the last installment of this series, Blameless. The characters seemed to be going off in odd directions, and the story was just not that enjoyable. I picked this one up worried that the charming Alexia that we met at the beginning of the series was gone forever. Not to worry! Alexia is back in all of her witty, werewolf taming glory along with her hunky husband Lord Maccon. Heartless finds Alexia eight months pregnant, and trying to dodge assassination attempts from those who don't want to see her give birth. The killer porcupines are certainly a highlight of this series that continues to be unabashedly creative and charming.
I was glad to see her husband once again faithfully by her side, and was not surprised that Alexia is not letting her pregnancy stand in the way of her duties to her country and her pack. Felicity and Madame LeFoux both return and bring their own surprises to a story that was well plotted and paced. While there are not quite as many interesting mechanical creations as before, the characters are stronger than ever, and the dialogue still pops along at a merry rate. I am glad to see this series solidly back on track and can't wait until the next installment!
I really wanted to like this book. I fell in love with the characters in the first one, but felt the quality had deteriorated with each subsequent book. This may be it for me.
My biggest problem is Alexia. She has become completely unlikeable; no longer the funny, quirky pragmatist she started out as. Here, she makes a series of questionable decisions that result in dire consequences for herself and those around her, and rather than seeming logical, they just seemed stupid, and at times, cruel. She also comes off as a doormat, for example, with the vampire queen and hive. She seems eternally forgiving of the actions of those who don't deserve it (vampire queen, her sister...) and a stickler against those who deserve compassion (Lefoux).
Lord Maccon has been unwittingly manipulated by two packs, wrongfully abandoned his pregnant wife, is so inept at BUR he can't build a case against vampires trying to kill his wife (who don't seem to be hiding their efforts all that well), decides to give his child away to a vampire he doesn't trust (with no recourse should the vampire up and leave with the child), and lets himself and his pack be evicted from their home (including having his wife who had just given birth immediately kicked out). He's a bad husband, terrible government agent, and worse pack leader. What happened to the gruff, but lovable and capable romantic lead?
I can't even articulate my horror at the Acaldama adoption and pack relocation.
The only thing I enjoyed was Lyall, and the author even managed to ruin that. I don't mind Lyall's underhandedness to help his pack, but it didn't sit well with me that he was apparently the reason Alexia's father walked out on his pregnant wife, and seemingly felt no guilt about it. Lyall is my favorite character & I wanted to feel his heartbreak, but I couldn't get past the unsavory circumstances of his relationship.
Not only was I disappointed with the character development, the plot didn't hold my attention, and I found myself skipping through much of the book. Overall, this was just not a good book.
I didn't review the previous books in the Parasol Protectorate, but if I had, I would have rated them at four and five stars. Given that, I was surprised that I can only grant three stars to _Heartless_.
Before I get as to why that is so, let me just briefly lay out the plot. _Heartless_ finds the "preternatural" Alexia now in the final weeks of her pregnancy and with very limited mobility suddenly called upon to quash a plot against the Queen's life, find a solution to continual vampire attempts on her own life, deal with her French inventor friend's melancholy (and crazy ghost Aunt), cope with her much unbeloved sister taking up residence in her home, and integrate a very unwilling new werewolf into her husband's pack. As usual, all these tasks will be accomplished with the assistance (competent or otherwise) of her unflappable butler, "looming" husband, oblivious best friend, London's gayest vampire, great quantities of tea and the worlds most dangerous parasol.
Why does this mix work less well here than in previous books? The answer will involve
First of all, Alexia seemed off her game in this book. Granted she is very pregnant, but that shouldn't have affected her wits. For some reason I never quite grasped, she becomes sure that the current attempt on "the Queen" must be tied to a failed attempt by the Scottish werewolves 20 years ago, and despite being told by multiple trustworthy people that it's very unlikely and no good can come from delving into that history, she bulls on. And in fact, there is no connection, and she learns things that make her very unhappy, ie: what everyone told her about the course of action was true. Now, clearly the sequence serves a purpose in the series meta-plot as important details about her father, husband, and other players are revealed, but by tying it all to a red-herring plot point, Carriger makes it all feel forced and unsatisfying. Surely the same facts could have been established in a more relevant manner?
Aside from wasting her time on a dead end, Alexia also seems much too oblivious to the consequences of introducing a swarmed vampire hive to her pack's castle. If the reader can pretty much predict the consequences (at least to the point of the hive not being able to leave if not that the werewolves will have to), then surely Alexia, who *lives* in the setting and is quite smart should be able to. She also misses clues about the emotional state of her inventor friend and her "son"'s strange absence.
This book also unwisely introduces (or at least I cannot recall it being stated in an earlier book) the concept that the location of vampire hives is secret. This is clearly nonsensical given that they host social functions constantly and that carraiges from all over London must converge there. However, even allowing that the way we allow that Lois never could tell Clark from Superman because of the glasses, it fails completely in that the London vampires have been trying to kill Alexia for months. It is one thing to keep someone's secret when you are nominally at peace, it is quite another to keep it (and for them to assume you will keep it) when they are making constant attempts on your life.
The ghost POV sections seem unnecessary to me as well, and really add very little to the book. (I'm also not clear why the ghost sees getting a message to Alexia as important).
That's not to say there aren't plenty of things to like about this book, for instance Alexia's complaint to her friend (more or less): "And creating an octomaton and rampaging across town was your first idea rather than talking to me?", the ongoing idea that Ivy is not as clueless as she seems and of course the sheer satisfaction of being able to consign one's sister to the dungeon.
Unanswered question 1 (or perhaps I just missed it): How *did* Biffy get out?
Unanswered question 2: Didn't anyone tell the cover artist that Alexia was very pregnant?
on April 28, 2016
-Book Description: 4
-Simile Use: 4 (minimal usage)
-Description: 4 (well balanced)
-Show And Tell Balance: 4
This is the fourth installment in the Parasol Protectorate series, in which we find Alexia in yet another taxing situation. This one is one that no one could of expected, least of all, Alexia. She finds herself pregnant, abandoned by her husband and under attack from the local vampire hive. Throughout the book she's fending for her life, trying to figure out how it's possible she's pregnant and pining over the fact that Conall has abandoned her and doesn't trust her enough to know she's been faithful. This novel is almost as delightful as the previous novel, but I had a harder time getting through it. Sometimes the balance of show and tell became a bit burdensome. I did like that we got to see a bit more of the secondary characters of Lyall and Biffy and the background of Alexia's birth and being soulless rolls out nicely. Overall, it was an excellent read.
on March 3, 2012
I'm legally blind & so tend to purchase only kindle books which are text-to-speech enabled, as were Soulless, Changeless, & Blameless by Gail Carriger. I enjoyed listening to these books a great deal...loved them in fact!! When I went to get Heartless, however, I found that text-to-speech was not enabled. Thinking this a mistake I appealed to the publishers to kindly re-enable text-to-speech & explained to them that I have a visual impairment. Well, it was well over a week before I received a very disappointing response from Hachette Book Group...basically they said that they were not going to offer text-to-speech on any of their books which had a downloadable audiobook available & that they plan to disable text-to-speech on the first 3 books in the series as well. Now, the kindle format of each of Carriger's books in this series cost $7.99...while the audiobooks range from $21.99 to 23.99--I quite simply can't afford this right now...I grew up with the frustration of always knowing my reading material would cost more than that of others (to convert books to audio, braille, or large print is very expensive). The kindle is finally an opportunity for myself & others with visual impairments to get their reading materials at the same cost as everyone else, which is an exciting & wonderful thing for us...& it really upsets me that greedy publishers like Hachette Book Group are ruining that opportunity for us...
I am sorry, Gail Carriger, for the 1-star review as you surely don't deserve it...but I feel that this publishing company does deserve it... I wish now that I hadn't gotten so much into this book series because it's so frustrating to me that I can't continue into the 4rth book in the way I got through the first 3. Even if I could afford the audio version I don't feel that Hachette Book Group deserves my money, not after my recent dealings with them.
All of this did motivate me to start an online cause, on causes.com, called "Tell Amazon.com that all Kindle books should be Text-to-Speech & Loan ENABLED!". I ask that anyone who has an interest in this issue please come join this cause. It needs all the help it can get if it's going to make Amazon & the publishers pay attention. Thanks for reading!
on April 19, 2016
I enjoyed it. In this book, Alexia must unravel and stop a plot against the queen, while dealing with one of her sisters suddenly appearing on her doorstep to live with her, all while being nearly ready to give birth to her first child. It's full of a lot of nonstop action that is mostly predictable, but the book is still enjoyable and well written.
I'm looking forward to the next book in the series as it takes place after the birth of Alexia's child. Given that until Alexia agreed to allow her child to be adopted and raised by a vampire, the vampires were trying to kill her to prevent the birth, I'm curious as to what frightens them so about the child.
on September 8, 2014
Parasol Protectorate 4
Alexia's due date is fast approaching, but she still has a full plate. Ghosts are warning of danger to the Queen, the vampires are still trying to kill Alexia to prevent the birth of her baby, Biffy is still struggling with his metamorphosis, and Lyall reveals something painful from his past. And then there is Madame Lebouf who is working herself to the bones on something her aunt doesn't approve of.
This one really mixes things up in the werewolf and vampire communities. Westminster Hive and Woolsey Pack may never recover. Another delightful tale, but I still don't understand why the romance between Akeldama and Biffy couldn't continue, even if it is an unusual pairing. So is a marriage between a werewolf and a preternatural, but it works. Once again we're given humor, romance, the paranormal, and a dollop of Victorian steampunk. 4.5 out of 5.
on March 25, 2015
Heartless was not as good as the other books in the Parasol Protectorate series. It didn't seem like a whole lot happened in this one. All the characters are there and stuff happens just nothing super exciting. The last third of the book was the most exciting. And of course Alexia and Conall's baby is special which was interesting.
Overall, nothing new was brought up about Alexia's father or her Soulless state. The characters are just as funny and entertaining as the other books, but for this one, the story wasn't as exciting as the others.
4.5 out of 5 stars for great characters and writing.