Monday, September 19, 2011

Heartless by Gail Carriger

Book Description:
Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf's clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama's second best closet?

What got off to a somewhat sluggish start turned into a great read, with a satisfying finish that made my head spin!  I loved this latest installment in the Parasol Protectorate series, I think it's the best to date!  Alexia is a pip and nothing can stop her.  Now very pregnant, she is constantly on the go - running here, running there, trying to find out who is trying to kill Queen Victoria.  The plot itself, interspersed with wisps of dreamlike prose from an incoherent ghost, was a bit hard to follow in the beginning, but that was beside the point.  By the end of the book it all made sense.  Aside from that, the best part of this book was the humorous quips and asides that are constant throughout.  Add to that the fantastic cast of characters and paranormal "world" Carriger creates.  All combined, it makes the Parasol Protectorate an original and endearing series. 

Author, Gail Carriger is a true wit.  Her humor, dry and worthy of the Victorian period she depicts, flows seamlessly in and out of the story.  The plot line abounds with understated observations that are just so funny!  Alexia, happily married to her alpha werewolf, Lord Maccon (who I love!) is nearly at her wits end.  About to give birth, she is indomitable.  An inconvenience such as being eight months pregnant does not keep her down! I kept thinking of the phrase, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."  Alexia epitomizes that phrase.  So much needs to be done throughout this book, and the only one that can do it is - Alexia!  (though she is wise to leave certain things to her staff and Lord Akeldama's minions, who really do know best!)

There is so much going on this book, I can't even begin to outline it all.  Pardon me if my review is all over the place. There are loads of revelations coming out of the woodwork!  One of the biggest surprises was in regard to the unflappable Professor Lyall and his past with Alexia's father!  I feel this is definitely setting the stage for a future between Lyall and Biffy who is not a happy werewolf!  All the characterizations of the side characters in this story are great.  Lord Akeldama has always been an amusing side character, not uncommon with gay characterizations.  But in Heartless, he's become a very interesting gay vampire. I love his character and everything about him, he steals every scene he's in, btw.  I find his love for Biffy touching and the fact that they can no longer "be" because Biffy is now a werewolf.  This is, in of itself, a very interesting twist, the unfortunate Biffy must deal with being a werewolf against his will.  It adds another dimension to Carriger's entire paranormal world, which is very well done.  She could have just left it that Biffy is now a werewolf, but instead she's exploring all the sides to his furry dilemma and unhappiness at losing Lord Akeldama.

I personally enjoy the paranormal aspect to these books much more than the steampunk side, which seems to get more attention when the books are talked up.  In the previous books of the series, pages and pages of Madame Lefoux's mechanical inventions led to my eyes glazing over.  (Though, in Heartless, her octomaton is anything but boring!)  I prefer Carriger's world of werewolves and vampires over gadgetry, especially the vampire queen and her hive - and what it means to swarm!  I also like the political rivalry between the queen's and Lord Akedama's vampires. It's all so different and clever!

Getting back to Madame Lefoux, she rubs me the wrong way.  I found her plot line and desire to retrieve her son, a bit over the top.  But it did make for fun reading as a very pregnant Alexia had to avoid Madame Lefoux's giant octomaton throughout the back streets of London before catching a ride on Lord A's flying "gondola" (or whatever it was).  It rescued her in the nick of time!  The imagery of her getting in an out of it was hilarious!  But the whole ghost thing with Madame Lefoux's aunt lost me. 

Overall, I really loved this book.  Although there wasn't much lovin' between Alexia and Conall as some of the other books have had (she is eight months pregnant after all!), their marriage is secure, which is a vast improvement from the last book!  They have many loving moments together, including a familiarity that is evident from being married.  (I love it how he walks around so unabashedly in the nude. *sigh*)  Did I mention how much I adored Conall?  When he and his pack come to rescue Alexia from the octomaton?  Great, great!  (I love it when he's all protective of Alexia.)  

Speaking of the pack, some odd developments occur in Heartless that lead to a major change for the Woolsey Pack, such as it's location and name.  In addition, I wonder what will come of Major Channing Channing.  I like him and want to know more about his past.  I wonder just what's in store for Alexia's incorrigible sister, who deserves a real set down after her latest!  I'm hoping Channing will play a role there.  I'd love to see them wind up together!  She needs someone who can control her and he might just be the werewolf to do it!

A great addition to the series, and I highly recommend it!


P.S.  Does anyone else agree with me that this is a really unattractive cover?  The first time I saw it, I thought it was a joke and that someone had photoshopped a fake cover as a goof!

P.P.S.  Does anyone know how to pronounce Maccon?  Does it rhyme with bacon?  It's driving me crazy!  Maybe someone who has listened to these books on audio can tell me?


JenM said...

I have no idea how to pronounce Maccon, but I've been giving it a short A sound, rather than a long A. Maybe someone from Great Britain will post and set us straight.

I pretty much agreed with 100% with your review, although I actually enjoy the steampunk elements, but really, I read these books for the characters. Alexia is just hilarious and I love how she keeps Conall permanently befuddled.

Penelope said...

Maccon, rhymes with bacon! I don't know. I agree about the cover...this was the first dud in the series of great covers.

Great review....I also loved this book and I adore this series! Channing and Alexia's sister? Hmmm....that did not occur to me. Very interesting idea!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Pen, I haven't liked any of the covers, but this one was tool the cake. Something about the font and the Victorian look is off (in my eyes, at least).

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Jen, I agree about loving the way Alexia has Conall befuddled, they're a great pair! He's so adorable when he's worried about her and blurts things out!

The_Book_Queen said...

Great review!

I've only read the first in this series, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm anxious to continue the series, especially after reading your reivew for the newest book.

As for the cover, well, I thought the first was pretty good, but I have to agree, this one just looks wrong-- it is as if the woman's body stands out like a sore thumb in comparison to the rest of the cover, making it, as you pointed out, look like a fake cover done in Photoshop or something.

I hate when I can't prounance a character's name--I usually get frustrated, give up, and start abreviating it while reading (ie, Maccon would be 'M' every time I came across it in the book). :D I've yet to stop laughing at the thought of "Maccon like bacon", and I'm waiting for the moment when someone comes on and says 'Why, yes, that is exactly right!'. I think I'd be shortening my husband's name to Mac if that was the case. LOL.


Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

TBQ - you've got to read the rest in the series. One of the books ends on a very angsty note, but for the most part they are all full of humor and quirky characters. I've been pronouncing Maccon's name with a short a with the stress on "Mac", but I'm just not sure if that's correct or not! It always seems a bit awkward to me when I read, since I'm not sure!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

1. I have got to get into this series. I've read so many wonderful reviews.
2. I hate the cover so I'll pretend it doesn't exist.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Julia - LOL! I wish I could pretend too. Frankly, I think all the covers are a bit weird looking and unattractive. If I hadn't had this series recommended to me, I never would have read them based on the covers alone. But, at the same time, they are quirky and representative of Alexia and the Victorian steampunk nature, so in that regard are true to the content. But, I still dislike them...

Patti (Caught in a FAB Romance) said...

Oh - I'm behind on this series, I must catch up! And yes, I pronounce it like bacon too although I don't know if that's right, lol.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Patti - LOL! It's so funny, how none of us really know how to pronounce it!

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