Series: Parasol Protectorate #2
Published by Orbit Books on 1 April 2010
The indomitable and soulless Alexia Tarabotti, now Lady Maccon, is back in another delightful romp through steampunk Victorian England. Once again the supernaturals are feeling the pressure when all of them within a certain radius are turned human. Is it a plague or is it something more sinister? Queen Victoria is not amused and demands Alexia find the cause. Alexia can’t rely on her husband, who happens to be a werewolf alpha, as he toddles up to Scotland to deal with his family. Whatever has caused the nullifying effect follows him. Alexia follows the trail up north with a large retinue to solve the case and retrieve her husband.
While the character of Alexia was just as forceful (blunt) as before, Maccon undergoes a significant change. Gone is much of the charm he exhibited in the first novel and the only significant interactions between the two are when they are having sex. I thought this was a real shame as in the first novel Soulless, we got a sense that they were building a genuine partnership and they could rely on each other no matter what. In this novel, Maccon simply shuts down and refuses to interact with Alexia. His actions at the end are simply inexcusable even though they are bred from fear. Ivy Hisselpenny, Alexia’s friend has changed too and become so flighty and superficial I felt like shaking her. This does make her the perfect foil for Alexia who is rational and shows an uncommon degree of intelligence – except in choosing her friends. She also is gifted with some of the best one-liners. I really felt the absence of secondary characters such as Lyall that added so much depth to Soulless. He was around but not to the same extent. Madame Lefoux, a French cross-dressing lesbian scientist who makes great hats, takes over much of Lord Akeldama’s role. Why do the gay characters have to be stereotypical to the point they are almost caricatures?
Despite my issues with the characters, the plot is solid and moves along fairly quickly until the very end. We learn more of pack politics and the steampunk aspects of the novel are expanded. Unfortunately this novel acts as a bit of a bridge between novel one and three. There is a large cliff hanger at the end which irks me. From a rational point of view, this is clearly part of a series and if people enjoy the first couple of books, the odds are they will read a few more. I’m not very rational though. I hate it when books do not resolve something big because I feel as if I am being forced into reading the next one.
I really enjoyed this novel but while the pacing improved, the characterisation didn’t. It had the potential to be amazing but just misses the mark. I’m giving it the same grade as the first one but for different reasons. The fact that I was so angry on Alexia’s behalf shows Carriger has some skill. Given the significant cliff hanger, I hope that the next novel finally gets it right.