Wednesday, January 4, 2012

review: changeless

For Christmas I received Changeless, the second novel in Gail Carriger's steampunk paranormal sci-fi romance series, The Parasol Protectorate series.  My review on the first novel, Soulless, can be read here.

The second novel begins three months after the last novel ended.  A humanization weapon has touched down upon England, restoring immortals such as vampires and werewolves to a human form, and exorcising ghosts within a certain radius.  Former spinster Alexia Tarabotti, now Lady Maccon, muhjah to the British government and wife of the Earl of Woolsey, must find out what this weapon is and destroy evidence of it before evil scientists, supernaturals, and fearful daylight folk can use it to the greater harm of the global supernatural community.  The mission takes her from an eccentric hat shop in London to a dirigible in the aether to the Scottish Highlands, where much tea is consumed, fashion discussed, near-murders committed and relationships explored.

For the second book in this series I have quite a lot of good things to say, as well as some unsatisfactory items of note.

image source: Fangs for the Fantasy
To start out, the transition from the previous book to the next is terrific.  One is instantly thrown into Alexia's new world as Alpha female of the Woolsey pack, with her still learning her new places as a wife and as a political figure while still using her razor sharp tongue and incomparable wit to keep her husband and combative supernaturals in place.  Several interesting new characters are introduced, while bits of Lord Maccon's past come out and one learns that a parasol can be a very useful technologically advanced weapon indeed.  The plot moves along swiftly and to an exciting conclusion of the mission in a logical but sometimes too-obvious way, the actual ending of the novel is leaves the reader with a revelation and a cliffhanger that is completely unexpected and completely Victorian.

As a result I have to read the next book in the series, Blameless, to find out what happens next.

While sequels often do not handle relationships between main characters whose romances blossom in the previous story very well, Changeless was a refreshing read.  Lord Maccon is just as in love (and in lust) with his wife as he was in the first story, and Alexia acts as her practical, less sex-driven self would behave.  Both characters are constantly verbally sparring with each other as well, in a more sarcastically loving way, and despite both being Alpha personalities, still assume aspects of their stereotypical Victorian gender roles as man and woman (with Alexia screaming about a "cockroach" while Lord Maccon calmly stomps it to death).

As I was promised by karen!  there were less romance scenes in this novel- very much appreciated by yours truly.

And kudos to Carriger for considering that Victorian dresses would be completely unsuitable on a windy dirigible- that is, unless they were weighted.  A nice little made-up fashion detail that has one thinking- "Oh yeah, airship travel would probably have that difficulty."

The cons were few but I believe need to be pointed out.  I must complain that Carriger's minor characters are way too flat.  Their motives are always obvious and one can almost nearly always guess what their next move is going to be.  Ivy Hisselpenny in particular was rather too stupid to be justifiable as more than a passing character in this novel.  Despite being stinking drunk, to comment on the inappropriateness of a friend's undergarments showing while she is hanging on for dear life on the side of a dirigible is just plain ridiculous.  And the villain of this story was just as thoughtless as the villain in the last- getting way too sloppy and not paying attention to details at the end.

Also, I am not sure if this is a flaw with the author's writing or I am just brilliant in picking up the clues, but I knew who the spy was and what the weapon was way before the other characters knew.  I'm pretty sure that it's not the latter though, so I guess that the clues dropped were too obvious.  I could discuss them here, but I would rather not spoil the story for someone else.  It's not like the foresight ruined my enjoyment of the story though.

The last complaint- for a character that apparently doesn't pay attention to fashion, Lady Maccon certainly thinks about it and comments on it way too much.  I would rather Carriger just admitted that Alexia is interested in fashion- even if it's considered to be to a lesser degree than other girls.

Overall I did thoroughly enjoy the story and am currently considering whether to find out if the cliffhanger resolves itself in the next book, Blameless, sooner rather than later.  I had planned to read Fydor Dostoevsky's The Idiot first, but that novel is at least 800 pages and may take me a good two-three months to get through.  Methinks that Changeless's dang cliffhanger is just too titillating for me to ignore for that long.

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