Published 2011 335 pages
Reviewed by Lotte
Summary (from the book jacket)
Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble in the air is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux’s latest mechanical invention, and a plague of Zombie porcupines - and Alexia barely has time to remember that she just happens to be eight months pregnant. Will Alexia be able to figure out who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it’s too late? Is the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf’s clothing? And do they really have to take up residence in Lord Akeldama’s second best closet?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you’ve not read the previous books in The Parasol Protectorate series, go away and read them first; then come back to Heartless, the fabulous fourth book! That’s not to say you won’t enjoy it as a first introduction to this Victorian era paranormal/steampunk series, but why spoil your own fun? Read them in order – it’s much better. Ok, now on with the review…
Gail Carriger really is back on form with this latest instalment in the wild adventures of Lady Alexia Maccon, now heavily pregnant and happily reconciled with her Alpha werewolf husband, who has finally accepted that he is the father of her ‘infant inconvenience’. As we found out in book three, unborn Maccon has caused quite a stir within the supernatural world amid much speculation about just what sort of a baby will a soulless mother and werewolf father produce? Unfortunately, it seems that there are those who would rather not wait to find out, so once again Alexia is being pursued by a variety of mechanical and undead would-be assassins. This ultimately results in her seeking refuge in the unlikely location of Lord Akeldama’s second best closet, which is just one part of the grand plan to keep Alexia and her baby safe (you’ll have to read the book to find out why this is more ingenious than it sounds).
The novel opens by giving us access to secret BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry) records on Alexia’s pregnancy, speculating about her unborn child. We are then quickly thrown into an enticing mix of plot strands involving all the best characters from the previous books, such as mysterious Madame Lefoux, fabulous Lord Akeldama and the always delightful Professor Lyall. We also get to catch up with gorgeous Biffy, former favourite drone of Lord Akeldama, to find out how he’s coping with his new supernatural status. Poor old Biffy – it’s not exactly a plot spoiler to say that being a werewolf pup isn’t really his thing and it’s causing problems for everyone around him. There’s a rather ridiculous sub-plot featuring one of Alexia’s sisters, but it’s fun, so all is forgiven. Ultimately, Alexia seems to get away with changing the whole structure of supernatural life in London by the end of the novel and yet still her husband finds her adorable. Where do you find love like that in the living world?
Generally Carriger has maintained a high standard with this series and it was only in the previous book that I had some minor reservations about the pacing of the story – not so with Heartless. This book could have been called ‘breathless’ as Alexia lurches from danger to danger with scant regard for her ‘delicate’ condition. As we’ve come to expect, there is a strong steampunk element woven throughout the story, which for the first time I rather enjoyed. I have never really been a great fan of steampunk, so either Carriger has written this particularly well, or else I’m mellowing on this point. Either way, if you love steampunk – this is for you and if you don’t love steampunk, it’s probably still for you – there is really is something for everyone in the parasol protectorate series.
Like its predecessors, this book is smart, witty and elegantly written with a keen eye for detail. Carriger has created an wonderfully evocative world set in an alternative version Victorian England, which she brings to life through vividly described scenes, funny touches, clever observations and sparkling dialogue. The characters are fully realised individuals that as a reader you quickly grow to love. Another thing that made this book a treat was that we learn much more about Professor Lyall (my particular favourite) and get to see more of the vampire nature of Lord Akeldama (oh, he’s my favourite too) in the course of this book. And it wouldn’t be the Parasol Protectorate without Ivy introducing us to at least one more hideous hat, in this case the perfect headwear for dirigible travel.
In summary, Heartless is a really fun, well-written book that will keep you entertained and turning those pages. If you enjoyed the previous three books in the series you will not be disappointed and no doubt like me, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Timeless in March 2012 to find out what on earth happens next…
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