In this latest entry in the Parasol Protectorate series, the action picks up shortly after Changeless ended. I didn’t find this one quite as sparkling as Soulless, in which we were first introduced to the author’s clever Victorian steampunk world and to her marvelous heroine, but I did enjoy this book. A note of caution: Don’t read this review or this book if you haven’t read the first two books in the series. And, truly, why would you want to?
Alexia is back in her family’s home, and no one is happy. Her half-sisters fear Alexia’s presence will ruin their chances. Alexia is unhappy with the staff (who fail to do her bidding), and then, there’s the dreadful “infant-inconvenience” that among other things, has made breakfast – her previous favorite meal of the day – unpalatable. And then, things get worse.
Newspaper articles intimate that Conall, Lord Macon, kicked Alexia out of his home and his life because she’s pregnant with someone else’s child. Gossip spreads quickly and everyone sides with Conall’s belief that Alexia must have been unfaithful. After all, as a werewolf, he’s not alive and thus can’t have children. Once her family learns the news, Alexia is no longer welcome in their home.
Alexia heads to her friend Lord Akeldama’s town house to seek refuge, but discovers that the vampire and all his cohorts have abandoned the place. And yes, things do truly get worse for Alexia. Someone is trying to kill her in a most innovative way; she’s attacked by mechanical ladybugs (with poison feelers) while driving down Oxford Street.
Alexia decides to head to Italy and seek out the Templars, who are experts regarding preternaturals. Alexia figures that they must know how she, a preternatural, could be pregnant by a werewolf. Alexia’s traveling companions are Floote, and the mysterious, cross-dressing Madame Lefoux.
If you read the series mainly for the romance between Alexia and Lord Maccon, you’re probably going to dislike this book since it features very little romance between the two. Lord Maccon spends most of the book drunk or off page. The majority of the scenes that do not feature Alexia focus on Professor Lyall’s efforts to hold things together in the face of Lord Maccon’s drunkenness.
I don’t read the series for the romance, which is a good thing, as there wasn’t much of it in this book. I read them primarily to learn more about the world Ms. Carriger has created and to read more about her heroine and neither disappointed me. I’m also becoming very intrigued by some of the secondary characters, in particular Professor Lyall, and look forward to learning more about him in the future
I love how Alexia thinks of her child. There are no hearts and flowers, she thinks of it as parasiting inside her. I also appreciate that Alexia uses her mind to try and solve her problems, but isn’t afraid to wield her parasol when necessary.
There were some very fun moments in Paris and Florence, and many new mechanical creations. But I think one of the funniest things for me was Alexia’s love of pesto, the perfect antisupernatural dish, for the garlic fights off vampires and the basil fights off werewolves.
The book dragged a bit toward the end, and then seemed to wrap up rather suddenly. I honestly expected to see another chapter or two. While I didn’t like this as much as Soulless, it was an enjoyable reading experience, in the author’s witty, incredibly clever world.