Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Blameless is the 3rd book in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series.
When readers last saw the soulless heroine Alexia Maccon at the end of Changeless she had just discovered she was pregnant and been cast out by her werewolf husband Lord Conall Maccon on the grounds that being for all intensive purposes dead werewolves cannot reproduce, so therefore the child that Alexia is carrying (dubbed the ‘infant inconvenience’ by Alexia) is not his.
This idiotic action by her equally idiotic husband forces Alexia to move back in with her family. This wouldn’t be so bad if the Loontwill’s, excepting the hen pecked patriarch Squire Loontwill, had a brain between them, but they don’t. Alexia’s half sisters; Felicity and Evylin are insufferably silly, and her mother is totally witless. They can’t bare to live with the scandal that Alexia brings with her, in fact Evylin blames the cessation of her engagement with Captain Featherstonehaugh on Alexia’s predicament. There’s no mention of the fact that Captain Featherstonehaugh also broke off an engagement with Alexia’s friend Miss Ivy Hisselpenny (this didn’t really bother Ivy, because it left her free to marry Conall Maccon’s former claviger Tunstell and become Mrs Ivy Tunstell), by the end of the book the fickle Captain Featherstonehaugh was engaged to the younger Miss Wibley (I’m betting he’ll have another fiancé by the start of book 4; Heartless). The Loontwill’s also toss Alexia out. The scandal has made it’s way through the ton like wildfire and poor Alexia can’t even take refuge in a teashop.
She goes to the one person who the scandal won’t bother; in fact it may even make her more attractive to him, the flamboyant vampire Lord Akeldama. The only problem with this is that Akeldama is not in residence, neither he or his army of dandified drones are anywhere to be seen. Something is most definitely not right. Then when Alexia is attacked by a horde of mechanised ladybugs en route to Madame Lefoux’s hat shop, she knows that she has to leave England.
With Conall indisposed, he’s managed to get himself horrendously drunk on the formaldehyde his Beta; Professor Lyall, keeps his sheep embryo specimens in (Maccon actually thought they were a ‘crunchy pickled snack’) Madame Lefoux elects to accompany Alexia to the continent, leaving Ivy (there was no one else) in charge of her shop. Ivy advises against Alexia visiting Italy as that is where they ‘keep’ all the Italians, she does however make Alexia a going away present of a box of tea. Heaven forbid she should have to drink coffee!
What follows is a madcap dash through France and Italy to Florence where Alexia, Madame Lefoux and Alexia’s butler/bodyguard Floote, are attacked nearly every step of the way. Floote showed surprising depth and resourcefulness during this adventure. Before he’d just been a frighteningly efficient butler, he’s also a frighteningly efficient bodyguard, managing to handily despatch pursuers without getting a speck of mud in his highly polished shoes or neatly pressed trousers.
While Alexia is trying to escape assassination attempts by vampire drones and imprisonment by the Templars in Florence, Lyall and Maccon are trying to discover what happened to Lord Akeldama and who murdered the Crown’s former vampire potentate and tried to do the same to Akeldama’s favourite drone; Biffy. Maccon does come to his senses and realises that Alexia has not been unfaithful to him and perhaps her soulless state has to do with her ability to conceive, when they’re touching he’s not a werewolf, and therefore alive. Readers know Conall can produce children, because we met his many times great granddaughter in Changeless.
Soulless and Changeless were fun, but Miss Carriger kicks it up a notch in Blameless. It’s great fun seeing Maccon make a drunken fool of himself and having Lyall take charge, he’s also the first one to realise that there’s more to Ivy Tunstell than the front she shows to the world at large. Seeing the alternate steampunk world that Gail Carriger has created in more depth with the trip to the continent was also fantastic. It’s not really that much different to our world, if you can ignore the vampires, werewolves and ghosts, not to mention that the Templars are still running around in Florence late in the 19th century! I like Akeldama, so his absence for a large part of the book was a bit of a blow, but more than made up with for SuperFloote, the very rude German inventor Lange-Wilsdorf and his ill fated, bad tempered little dog Pouche, and Alexia’s experiences with new things like pesto.
Alexia herself best sums up Blameless with this quote late in the book: ‘You mean while I’ve been running across Europe pregnant, escaping ladybugs, flying in ornithopters, landing in mud, and drinking coffee, you have been inebriated?’
The maglc Gail Carriger can perform with words simply needs to be read. I can’t wait to see how Alexia deals with pregnancy in Heartless.