Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Blameless by Gail Carriger, Book 3 of the Parasol Protectorate

After being most unjustly accused of adultery in Changless, Lady Maccon, la Diva Tarrabotti, finds herself relegated to her old home and very much a social pariah in London society. In some cases worse, the Vampires are frightened of the child she carries and plan to end her life while she is without the protection of the werewolf pack. Other ladies would retire in shame, embarrassment and fear.

Other ladies are not Lady Alexia Maccon. She refuses to hide or cower from high society and has a quite marvelous time of staring them down. Determined to prove that the child is in fact Lord Maccon’s (not that she wants him back, of course, oh no - but she looks forward to slamming the evidence down in front of him) Lady Maccon travels to Italy, to the fanatical Templars, who know more about the Soulless than anyone.

Of course, the vampires aren’t going to let a little thing like leaving the country stop them hunting and trying to kill her which certainly doesn’t help Lady Maccon’s travel; even if she is equipped with an emergency supply of tea. Then there’s the Templars themselves who, despite access to the most wonderful pesto, are most unfriendly people and not even slightly accommodating.

And things are far from quite in London, much to poor professor Lyle’s consternation. Between Lord Maccon’s drunken binge, the vampires hunting Lady Maccon and the disappearance of Lord Akeldama, there’s quite enough to keep the beleaguered beta busy.

Less than 2 pages. That’s how far I got before I collapsed giggling. The combination of Alexia’s marvellously strong character, the beautifully flowery Victorian decorum and language and just some wonderfully crafted silliness makes this book, like the two before it, a constant source of mirth - even if Miss. Hisslepenny and her hats are sadly not so present.

This book is basically superlatively wonderful in all the same ways that Soulless and Changeless were. the language is wonderfully evocative of the era. It’s screamingly, hilariously, outrageously funny. Lady Alexia Maccon is a truly magnificent character - sassy and sarcastic, funny and strong, sensible and shameless. Frankly, if the story were poor, the backing characters flat and the world ridiculous, the books would still be an amazing read just because of Lady Alexia Maccon

Of course, the world is wonderful - rich and very very evocative of the era. the combination of steampunk and the paranormal in such a unique fashion is refreshing and different to read and the backing characters all feel like fully fleshed out real people with their own lives and agendas.

If I have one criticism of the story it’s that I think Alexia’s decision to go to Italy was a trifle flawed and that the animosity of the Templars could be predicted and shouldn’t have been a surprise. especially since, in the end the Italy trip was relatively unnecessary. However, they’re minor - and I can certainly see and enraged and em passioned Alexia charging across the continent without stopping to consider such minor matters while she’s embroiled in the important task of Proving Her Husband Wrong.

Characterwise, Madame Lefoux’s continued not-so-subtle-advances on the clearly uninterested Lady Maccon are not ideal. It is further problematic that on two occasions, Madam Lefoux is forced into a frilly ridiculous dress, with Lady Maccon making insensitive comments about female attire.  At times it almost felt that even though Madam Lefoux is clearly a woman, that her refusal to conform to gender norms of the day served to other her and make her gender questionable.  However, the portrayals of Lord Akeldama and his entourage are not as overly described and rife with stereotypes as they have been in the past. I think the edge has been dulled, in part because the description has already been made and doesn’t need constant repetition.  

I do like to see that Akeldama and Biffy have some genuine affection and love for each other - and I very much want to see more of this relationship and the passions and strength of this especially given the latest change. I am worried with how his demeanour will change and be contrasted with the pack and I fear that that could be a venue for future problems. Lyal even goes as far as to wonder whether Lord Maccon will be able to sever the bond between Lord Akeldama and Biffy.  I understand that this is about acclimatising Biffy to the pack; however, the relationship between Biffy and Akeldama amount to the only ongoing gay relationship and so it would be a true shame if something were to come between them.

It is virtually impossible to read this book and not laugh out loud.  From Alexia’s disgust with coffee to her vigorous embrace of all things pesto, this novel is a pure delight. The issues we have in this book are relatively minor and more worries about how it would develop rather than problems present here. Alexia remains an amazing character, her supporting characters remain strong, amusing and human and the story keeps you page turning without stop until the very end. It’s an effort of will to finish this book and not instantly reach for the second one.

We don’t hesitate to recommend this book. Buy it, read it love it and buy a copy for your friends - they’ll love you for it.