Published 2011 416 pages
Reviewed by Lotte
Summary (from the book jacket)
Alexia Tarabotti has settled into domestic bliss… Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London high society, living in a vampire’s second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell’s acting troupe’s latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a dampener on Alexia’s enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.
Until that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Alexia can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?
Ahh, where do I start with this, the *sob* final book in the Parasol Protectorate series? Do I dazzle you with the exotic locations and ancient Egyptian vampires? Should I reveal more about the unique abilities of Prudence, the world’s only metanatural toddler, product of Alpha werewolf Lord Maccon and preternatural Lady Alexia? Do I sing the praises of leading actress Ivy Tunstall, who never loses her capacity to surprise us with her hats and her hidden resources? Or shall I hint at the unpalatable truths we uncover about Alexia’s mysterious father Alessandro Tarabotti? Dare I mention that this is the book that delves beneath the unflappable exterior of Alexia’s butler Floote to reveal some of what is going on behind that inscrutable gaze? Or do I make you swoon with giddy delight at the wonderful love story interwoven throughout? Whatever strand takes your fancy you’re in for another treat with this fifth helping of Victorian supernatural/steampunk melodrama.
There’s always a slight hesitation when returning to a much-loved series, but rest assured Gail Carriger has done it again. From the very first paragraph I was immediately back in Alexia’s world, albeit a couple of years on from the end of book 4 where we left her slightly stunned by the arrival of a newborn baby daughter. We rejoin the Victorian world’s most unusual family to find them all living happily and noisily (especially when it’s Prudence’s bath night), secretly moving between the neighbouring houses of the Woolsey werewolf pack, now firmly established in London town, and Lord Akeldama, London’s outrageously fashionable and well-connected rogue vampire. However, Alexia’s two years of relative peace (at least from maniacal, mechanical devices intent on her demise) is soon ended when she is ordered to Egypt by the oldest living vampire Queen. Thus we find ourselves accompanying her on an eventful sea journey in the company of ten actors, three toddlers, a werewolf and a French inventor.
As ever, the plots are detailed with sharp wordplay and accomplished story-telling, but it’s the fabulous characters that really make this series so good. I love Professor Lyall, the Beta werewolf with a secret past that won’t stay hidden. I adore Biffy, the newest and most reluctant werewolf, who finally seems to be coming to terms with his furry affliction, even beginning to accept that he may never gain full control of his hair again. I don’t fully trust Madame LaFoux, but am keen to hear about her latest inventions and her new life as drone in the Woolsey vampire Hive. And who wouldn’t jump at the chance to take afternoon tea with Lord Akeldama to hear the latest society ‘observations’ (not ‘gossip’, as Biffy clarifies)? Certainly, despite Alexia’s despair at being made to endure repeated performances of ‘that dratted spectacle’, I can’t be the only reader who’d pay good money to see her best friend Ivy’s heartfelt performance as vampire Queen in the supernaturally themed production of ‘The Death Rains of Swansea’ featuring actors as werewolves in ‘proper dress, except for large shaggy ears tied about their heads with pink tulle bows’? I know, I know, it’s unbearable that we may never see it on the London stage…
So, this is the end of the Parasol Protectorate; and whilst I’m sad not to be visiting these characters again, I’m glad that it’s going out on a high with a quality finale that concludes all the main plot strands from the previous books and gives us enough detail about the characters to ensure that we feel satisfied we know where they’re going as they carry on their super lives without us. Suffice to say, I loved it.
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