Published 2010 400 pages
Reviewed by Lotte
Summary (from the book jacket)
Alexia Maccon, The Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears – leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.
But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can.
She might even find time to track down her wayward husband – if she feels like it.
Now, have you read the first instalment in The Parasol Protectorate series? If the answer is no, for your own sake I urge you to go to the Soulless review instead – this series is too much fun to read in the wrong order. However, if you’re coming to this book as an established Alexia Tarabotti fan, then you’re in for a delicious second helping of soulless escapades in Victorian London (and Scotland).
In the first half of this novel Alexia gets a new and decidedly unusual new parasol, but the excitement doesn’t end there! There are some interesting new characters, such as the beautiful Madame Lefoux, a woman of many talents and many secrets, and the markedly less beautiful Scottish werewolf pack. There’s also more development of characters introduced in Soulless, such as Alexia’s French maid Angelique, and Felicity, one of her tiresome sisters. This makes for a volatile combination of travelling companions when Alexia’s best friend Miss Ivy Hisslepenny, known for her love of extraordinarily ugly hats, comes along too. Meanwhile, back in London we have vampire Lord Akeldama. As in book one, he’s looking fabulous (in a jacket of ‘pristine white silk with black embroidered birds of some lean oriental persuasion splashed about’), sounding marvellous (“you high-powered political daffodil, you”) and usefully employing his gorgeous boys to help Alexia solve the troubling mystery that has taken Lord Maccon away from London with such secret haste.
Alexia finds herself following her husband to Scotland, which gives her the chance to learn more about his long and eventful life in the two hundred or so years before they met. She’s intrigued and discomforted at times to realise that an old werewolf Alpha has plenty of secrets and personal history. Of course there’s little time to think about all this when you’ve got unruly werewolves, unsuitable secret romances, unnerving attempts on your life, attempted thefts and Egyptian relics thrown into the mix. It’s all rather thrilling!
Like its predecessor, this book has a mix of literary genres, combining a supernatural Victorian setting with strong elements of Steampunk. There’s a section of the novel detailing their journey north on the dirigible airship and extended discussion of the workings of the aethographic transmitter, which steampunk fans should enjoy. Personally, I’m more excited by vampire superpowers than the workings of the various strange and wonderful mechanical contraptions we encounter in this story, but it does make for an interesting read and adds a new twist to the business of supernatural investigations.
Much of the novel is sharp, witty and hugely entertaining, but towards the end, the tone turns darker with a dramatic plotline that should have most readers eagerly anticipating the third instalment. I found myself thinking about the ending and future storyline long after finishing Changeless. Bring on the third instalment please.
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