BoatGirl’s #CBR4 Review #40-43: Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless by Gail Carriger
As I mentioned in my review of the first Gail Carriger book I read, Soulless, the book was like candy. To continue the metaphor, the five books that make up the Parasol Protectorate were like being given an extra big giant box of Valentine’s Day chocolates, the good ones with lots of walnuts and caramel and no icky lemon creams. And the box itself is red satin with pink lace and velvet and ribbons decorating it. All you can do with it is gobble it up as quickly and greedily as possible then stare sadly at the pretty box once you’re done.
The four books here continued the story of Alexia Tarabotti, a soulless and very sensible woman in Victorian England. She has married Lord Maccon, the werewolf introduced in the first book the two continue to have adventures among the werewolves, vampires and ghosts. Alexia herself becomes more and more important in her world, as she assumes a position as an advisor to the queen, due to her unique ability to induce mortality in the undead by touching them. We learn that England has long held its dominant power due to the advice of a powerful trio composed of an ancient vampire, werewolf and whatever soulless can be found.
In Changeless, newlywed Alexia must travel (by dirigible!) to Scotland to conduct an investigation into why mortality is suddenly sweeping the nation, bringing along her friend Ivy and her unpleasant sister to disguise her intentions. While there, she learns why her husband left his Scottish home and werewolf pack for London and tries to right old wrongs. The answers point towards the mysteries of her own soullessness. Blameless picks up with Alexia discovering that she is pregnant, and being forced to leave the country, as it is believed impossible for a werewolf to impregnate a woman as they are technically dead. I found this point odd, since she was already aware that by remaining in any casual contact with a werewolf or vampire for long enough, their mortality would continue as if they had never been changed, for instance, their facial hair would grow back. So why the difficulty in believing sex would be any different? But anyway, she is in disgrace as the country believes she cheated on Lord Maccon. So, she escapes to Italy, where her father was from, in the company of the hatmaker extraordinaire, Madame Lefoux, who is a highly talented engineer/mechanic. Unfortunately, Italy is in control of the Knights Templar, whose mission is slightly different from what you may remember from history. They actually are trying to eradicate vampires and want to study Alexia. They are not very nice. Heartless finds her back in London, heavily pregnant, and trying to save the queen, since she has been warned that the queen is in danger by a ghost. Timeless finds Alexia, Connall, their daughter Prudence, and the rest of the gang haring off the Egypt at the request of the Vampire Queen of Egypt. As throughout the books, they have found hints that there are important historical ties of the soulless ones to Egypt, they decide to travel there to continue investigating.
Phew. A lot more happens, but that’s the very very bare minimum without giving anything important away and destroying the joy of the stories.
On to the things that I really loved about these books: the characters. I adored Lord Akeldama. He doesn’t appear in the synopsis above, but he is an absolutely vital part of the stories. He is Alexia’s confidante and an extremely ancient vampire who would fit in beautifully in some of the more posh bars of the Castro. Always surrounded by a bevy of beautiful boys, he is a cliché in the best possible way and when needed, always arrives in the nick of time to save the day or pass judgement on an outfit. Another favorite character was Biffy. Biffy began as Lord Akeldama’s favorite plaything, but due to a sad accident during a kidnapping, was transformed into a werewolf. Throughout the books he gains greater and greater prominence and is a lovely, highly competent butterfly. It is fascinating and incredibly sad to watch him have to become a werewolf when he never wanted to be one, but is forced to accept it and make the best of it.
I also really appreciate the consistency and well-thought out logic of the soulless/vampire/werewolf condition. The author has clearly thought out how these things work in her world and come up with explanations that stand up in the books. There is nothing more frustrating than reading a fantasy/sci fi book and finding that it contradicts its own laws – but these books follow the rules they set out so you don’t have that jarring sense of disgruntlement.
There were multiple storylines as well, which interconnected nicely. For instance, each book had its own distinct plot, but over the course of the 5 books we also learn much of the story of Alexia’s father and his valet, Floote, as well.
I’m not sure if there are any more books coming to this series, or if it will stand at 5. Honestly, much as I loved them, I’d be fine with the story not continuing. I feel like it came to a nice, rounded out conclusion that worked out the issues for most of the characters, answered most of the big questions, and left things neatly tied up. I worry that if the author feels the need to add more books, they will become like so many series where in later books the main character is a caricature of the original and there is no attempt made at continuity and agreement with earlier story lore (as an example, I would point out the latest in the Deanna Raybourn Lady Julia Grey series in which Lady Julia says that her relationship with Hortense was cooled when Hortense was with her father and how uncomfortable it was, yet in the book where Hortense and Lady Julia’s father were together, there is no appearance of that whatsoever and Lady Julia talks about how glad she is they have found happiness together. Make up your mind and stick to it.).