Gail Carriger
Heartless Cover



Gail Carriger's Heartless, the fourth installment of her whimsically over-the-top steampunk "urbane fantasy" series The Parasol Protectorate, continues to delight me, and to cause me to drink tea and say all the dialog to myself in a British accent.

In this one, a heavily pregnant Alexia Maccon, Lady Woolsey, is trying to manage her domestic life, which largely involves buying a town house for the pack next to Lord Akeldama's house so that Akeldama can adopt the baby and Alexia can live in one of his closets. This is all to make the Westminster Hive of vampires stop trying to kill Alexia and the baby, because vampires are chronically incapable of minding their own business. Then a half-crazy ghost shows up at the new town house and vaguely warns Alexia that there is a plot afoot to kill the queen.

From then on there is a bunch of the usual delightful Gail Carriger-style nonsense involving cravats, naked werewolves, mad scientists, and Alexia being cranky at people. There is a rather touching subplot about Biffy, formerly Lord Akeldama's drone but now a werewolf and member of Woolsey Pack, and his difficulties adjusting to pack life. Alexia does some investigating of the area mad scientists, the Order of the Brass Octopus, which involves a lot of investigating the past, as well—specifically, the last plot to kill the Queen, which originated out of Conall's former pack in Scotland. We learn more stuff about Alexia's father, Alessandro Tarabotti, who has been an interestingly mysterious figure throughout this whole series. And we get to hang out with Countess Nasdasdy and the Westminster Hive, who are thoroughly interesting characters. Carriger's vampires have some interesting bits of mythology to them that you don't see much elsewhere, such as that a vampire queen is permanently tethered to her home, and will only leave in grave danger—a practice called swarming—in which she will take all her vampires and drones with her and must find a new home posthaste or she will die. Ultimately, Carriger's vampire social structure seems to be based off bees.

There is also a good deal of Ivy Tunstell being very Ivy but also very awesome and useful, which made me very happy, because I like it when we get to like Ivy. Possibly the most hysterical scene in the whole books is Ivy's on-the-fly introduction to the newly official Parasol Protectorate, Alexia's private spy network. Ivy insists upon ritual and theatrics, and she gets them, and so does the reader.

In other news, I like Conall better this time around, if only because he has the same attitudes about Victorian melodrama as I do (i.e. that it is THE FUNNIEST SHIT IN THE WORLD). Also we see him being a genuinely good Alpha, rather than Lyall having to cover his ass the whole book.

My biggest issue with the book is that the climax of the plot relies upon Genevieve Lefoux doing something that is somewhat unsubtle and basically just plain stupid, which I don't feel is very Genevieve. The ramifications of the stupid thing are fabulous, though, neatly upending a lot of the social dramas in the book, and Alexia rearranges everything in a way that would make Flora Poste proud.

The new baby also promises to be a thoroughly interesting addition to the series, being a "skin-stealer," and I am quite looking forward to learning more about "skin-stealing" and what kind of havoc it can cause.

Originally posted at http://bloodygranuaile.livejournal.com/43935.html.