Carriger's Prudence is fun in so far as it provides glimpses into the lives and later actions of characters of whom many readers will have grown fondCarriger's Prudence is fun in so far as it provides glimpses into the lives and later actions of characters of whom many readers will have grown fond in either the Parasol Protectorate or the Finishing School series. Some of the narrator's dismissive asides regarding those characters, esp. given that they are the author's words and seem to make the reader passively complicit in the sentiments expressed, feel a bit like throwing some well-regarded characters (esp. Rue's mom) under a bus. While this is only book #1, I have to admit that it's occupying a distant third place in relation to those other series....more
Four and a half stars for Gail Carriger's Waistcoats & Weaponry. What's most inviting about this third entry in the Mademoiselle Geraldine's FinisFour and a half stars for Gail Carriger's Waistcoats & Weaponry. What's most inviting about this third entry in the Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing School for Girls of Quality (or just the Finishing School) series is that Sophronia and her cohort are putting their skills learned at school--along with their extra-curricular shenanigans--to very good use. Also welcome, is the fact that these young adults are growing up and coming to see that they have some tough decisions ahead of them. While the action is a bit slower in this one, the character development takes the front seat. Sophronia's utterly obtuse mother makes an appearance, for a change Dimity proves herself dependable and quite possibly in possession of what Sophronia would describe as "hidden depths," and there is--as readers familiar with this series would expect--a surfeit of dirigibles and werewolves. While I am eager to read the next in the series, I know that it is drawing to a close, and I wish that weren't the case. Great book--I thoroughly recommend it to readers of any age who enjoy the genre and good storytelling in the form of anachronistic steam punk coming of age tale meets training of spies/assassins for the Crown in a world in which paranormal creatures figure prominently. What's not to love there?!...more
Boneshaker is a steampunk novel set in an alternate Seattle, Washington, sometime in the 1880s. The Civil War is still raging due, in part, to the facBoneshaker is a steampunk novel set in an alternate Seattle, Washington, sometime in the 1880s. The Civil War is still raging due, in part, to the fact that "that Jackson fellow" didn't die at Chancellorsville, the South remained strong, and the battle waged on with no end in sight. Also setting the scene and context for this novel, inventor and ne'er do well Leviticus Blue has won a contest sponsored by the Russians for the creator of a machine to drill through the ice to get to the gold buried in the Klondike. Blue's invention goes horribly awry, destroying much of Seattle and releasing some sort of toxic gas--referred to as the Blight--that turns people into walking dead, referred to in this world as Rotters. While Blue's memory is reviled for the tragedy wrought on the region, which is subsequently walled off by a ca. 200 ft. wall and its inhabitants left to die, his father-in-law, Maynard Wilkes, enters and saves as many people as he can(including prisoners) from a terrible fate. Maynard dies as a result of injuries sustained in his effort. Where his son-in-law is reviled in subsequent public memory, Maynard in contrast, is a revered folk hero. Enter the action of the story in which Maynard's daughter and grandson are the central characters. Living on the Outskirts of a walled downtown Seattle, estranged mother and son (Briar and Zeke, respectively), are fallen on very hard times. Briar has told her son nothing of his father, who he never knew. At age 15, Zeke takes it upon himself to break into the walled downtown area and seek proof that his father was not the villain people make him out to be. When Briar learns of her son's actions, she too enters the walled area in an attempt to find him. All sorts of fascinating characters--some still animate, some far less so--are encountered, an interesting world is built (with its self-proclaimed overlord Dr. Minnericht, the scrappers, Doornails and rotters), dirigibles, goggles, and all manner of machinery distinct to the genre is invoked, and loads of adventures ensue. In retrospect, I would have vastly preferred this book had it been a stand-alone rather than a lead in to a trilogy. The world of possibility and options to chose your own resolution at novel's end would have been a lovely close. And a map in the book's end pages--of the Outskirts toward the front and the Walled area and underground toward the back--would have been most appreciated. ...more
I am rounding up from an actual rating of 3 1/2 stars. Carriger's YA steampunk "Finishing School" series remains super fun. Our protagonist, SophroniaI am rounding up from an actual rating of 3 1/2 stars. Carriger's YA steampunk "Finishing School" series remains super fun. Our protagonist, Sophronia Angeline Timminick is truly finding her way as a covert recruit at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. The action begins as the Sophronia and her cohort are pulled from class and their six-month review administered. It's a charming hodge podge of etiquette and assassinery in a comprehensive exam in which the girls have to apply the assorted lessons they've learned as well as trust their own gut instincts. With that event establishing some of the group dynamic for the foreseeable future, the actual meat of the story is delivered. A new technology is being given a public testing, one watched with keen interest by members of the paranormal community, esp. the vampires and werewolves--some of whom are represented among the patrons and instructors at Mlle. Geraldine's as well as among Queen Victoria's advisors--and the dirigible in which Mlle. Geraldine's exists will travel to London to witness this historical event.
In terms of the links between what readers of Carrigan's "Parasol Protectorate" know of this world, the prequel/backstory aspect of this series continues to be super delightful, most notably as relates to the training of 10-year old inventor-milliner-cross-dresser savant Genevieve (Vieve) Lefoux. The eccentric rogue vampire Lord Akeldama from that same series also makes an appearance and crosses tracks with a couple of our gang.
It is also a welcome development that Sophronia is maturing emotionally in addition to the refinement of her skills as a future "intelligencer" (i.e., socially proper spy and/or assassin). The love triangle put in place between her, the lovable sootie named Soap, and the Brunson's student and young aristocrat Felix Mersey will doubtless develop further in future installments. Given the genre and veneer of upper middle class to aristocratic etiquette, it's fun to see the assorted participants' reactions as well-considered social commentary vs. simply teen angst. Another welcome bit of personal growth occurs as Sophronia applies what she has learned of character assassination, and then must learn to live with the consequences of her actions.
All told, Carriger does a very nice job with this series. Like its predecessor, Curtsies & Conspiracies is a droll, welcome, and fast read. The transitions in perspective are a bit bumpy at times, and might be rendered more smoothly. Mindful that we need a juxtaposition between what Sophronia's thinking/feeling and the broader picture, there were a couple times where the shift was a bit abrupt and drew too much attention to itself. Such instances were fortunately rare, and the overall read was top rate....more
Anyone who enjoyed Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" series--or who might in a few years grow into a reader of said works--will thoroughly enjoy EtiquAnyone who enjoyed Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" series--or who might in a few years grow into a reader of said works--will thoroughly enjoy Etiquette & Espionage, the first in Carriger's "Finishing School" books. Instead of simply mastering the latest dance steps and how to use their feminine wiles to land a suitable husband, students at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality learn the skills necessary to function in polite society as intelligence gatherers and/or assassins in service to an alternate (read: paranormal Steampunk) version of the British Empire. Most of the girls sent to this particular finishing school attend as legacies--members of the aristocracy whose mothers have surreptitiously been engaged in related activities and/or whose fathers are Evil Genius graduates of the brother school, Bunson & Lacroix's Boys Polytechnique. A vastly smaller percentage, like our protagonist Saphronia Angelina Temminnick, are what is referred to as "covert recruits"--invited to the school because they possess promise of meeting the school's unique set of graduation requirements. For this second set of attendees, their snobbish parents mistakenly think they have sent their daughters to a business-as-usual Victorian finishing school.
That said, the curriculum and faculty at Mademoiselle Geraldine's are decidedly distinct. Upon learning that Mlle. G's students learn knife-fighting from a werewolf, for instance, young Pillover, brother to Saphronia's classmate Dimity and student at Bunson's, complains:
"Werewolf? Bully! We don't have any supernaturals here. It's quite a dearth in the deanship if you ask me. Any reputable school ought to have at least one vampire professor. Eton has three. You lot are only girls, and you've a vampire and a werewolf. Holy unfair, that's what I call it" (p. 189).
Classified as YA fiction, E & E is simply good storytelling. It would make a superb way to introduce young readers to steampunk fiction, and contains all the fun adventure elements of the very stories from my youth. Coming to the series as an adult, however, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the younger incarnation and relations of well-loved characters who figure prominently in the Parasol series.
It is all too rare an event, when I read a book imagining just how well it might be adapted to the big screen. Perhaps it was the allure of the altogether attractive cover (yes, I often pull books off the shelf precisely because their covers intrigue me in some way) that drew me to this book, and only later did I realize its connection to other works I had so enjoyed, but the storytelling here is precisely of a Harry Potter, Golden Compass sort--namely, transporting the reader (or viewer in the hypothetical movie scenario) to a world populated by a range of interesting people, empowered women, intricate devices, and outrageous hats. I eagerly await Sophronia's next outing, and recommend this book to YA fans and older readers who appreciate atmosphere, quirky social commentary, and a good story....more
Blameless begins with a pregnant Alexia Tarabotti (a.k.a. Lady Maccon) whose husband has thrown her out because he mistakenly believes she's been unfaBlameless begins with a pregnant Alexia Tarabotti (a.k.a. Lady Maccon) whose husband has thrown her out because he mistakenly believes she's been unfaithful as it is widely (if not altogether erroneously) known that a werewolf--even the fiercely powerful leader of the Woolsey Pack--cannot impregnate a preternatural. Poor Alexia is forced home to the company of her mother, inane step-sisters, and distracted stepfather, that is, until her fallen status results in the cancelation of one of her step-sister's wedding engagements. From there, she's summarily dismissed from her parents' home and sets off across the European Continent in the company of hatter/inventor Madame Lefoux, Floote, and M. Trouve to see if she cannot get some much-needed answers regarding her condition.
Meanwhile, all hell has broken lose across the broad spectrum of the paranormal community and the vamps are out to kill Alexia, the Knights Templar are equal parts intrigued and terrified of her and the possibility of what she carries (which they refer to at one point as an "abomination"), and a certain German scientist who refers to her solely as "Female Specimen" is keen to run a few tests that will likely result in her ultimate display on a dissection table. Oh, and things are no better in the werewolf community where Lord Maccon has taken to a near-total state of inebriation as a means for dealing with this latest marital setback.
All told, this is a good fun romp and Alexia gets to kick some serious butt--both with and without the aid of her fierce parasol. In fact, she even invents the term "parassault" to refer to those interactions. Carriger seems to really be hitting her stride here, and the side stories of both internal pack politics and their parallels to vampire politics and the wider realm of Victoria's England are nicely handled. I don't know what this baby is going to be, but it certainly won't be boring!...more
In Changeless, newly-wed Alexia is working as Queen Victoria's muhjah and must investigate some sort of disturbance that is rendering all supernaturalIn Changeless, newly-wed Alexia is working as Queen Victoria's muhjah and must investigate some sort of disturbance that is rendering all supernaturals mortal--vamps have no bite, weres have no fur, and all ghosts within about a 20 mile radius of whatever is causing this are immediately (and permanently) exorcised. The story takes her to Scotland and, in addition to solving the case, she learns much about her husband's past (e.g., why he abandoned the Kingair Pack, some family history, and gains far deeper insight into his true temperment and lupine side), there is mucho gender-bending and goofing on Victorian morals, and her ill-named (i.e., heinously self-absorbed and downright petty) sister Felicity and ill-behatted friend Ivy Hisselpenny accompany her on a dirigible ride.
So why only three stars, you ask? The story is pretty good--it includes slightly more context on the muhjah's job responsiblities, there's growing understanding of both vampire and werewolf politics, and of course there's nifty technology (e.g., the dirigible, the aethographor, and Alexia's parasol with Bond-like gadgetry). On the downside, it is just sooooo Victorian, complete with domestic misunderstandings and over-reactions that will doubtless lead to interesting plot devices down the line but border on what I imagine to be the territory of Harlequin Romances or literature that is of a genre other than urban fantasy.
I won't ruin the ending, but I'm just not sure where Carriger is taking us and I'm royally disappointed that Alexia would allow herself to be placed in the position in which she finds herself. Who knows, maybe I'll have to upgrade my score once the next book is out and I better understand where things are headed....more
Alrighty urban fantasy fans, this series is a real treat! But how to characterize it? Here goes: it's like Mary Poppins meets Rory Gilmore dipped in hAlrighty urban fantasy fans, this series is a real treat! But how to characterize it? Here goes: it's like Mary Poppins meets Rory Gilmore dipped in heroin and rolled in crack. In other words, Soulless is fun, smart, addictive, and absolutely ruthlessly irreverent when it comes to mocking matters of propriety of the Victorian era. Moreover, it provides a brilliant new spin combining the best of urban fantasy with alternate history. The setting is Victorian London, and the main character is Alexia Tarabotti, the 27-year old spinster daughter of a now truly-dead vampire and his subsequently remarried social climbing wife. Alexia is a duly-registered preternatural, and her very touch renders the powers of supernatural characters such as vampires, werewolves, and ghosts useless. When taking cover in a quiet library at a dreadfully boring social engagement, Miss Tarabotti is set upon by a vampire. After dispatching him, she becomes embroiled in an investigation and far-reaching series of events. Along the way, the reader is treated to social commentary, really fun historical detail (but not in a mind-numbing sort of way), as well as great description and characterization. In fact, upon finishing the book, I cannot help but imagine that in this alternate reality England only got to become the empire that it once was as a result of the intervention of supernatural--and quite likely preternatural--forces. This is a line of reasoning that will doubtless be more fully developed in subsequent books in the series.
If you saw the movie From Hell and were utterly fascinated by the alienist and the extreme disdain with which his scandalous methods and line of inquiry were held by the members of so-called polite society, then this is precisely the book (and likely series) for you. Likewise, for those of us who love history--esp. industrial history, medical history and the intersection of knowledge and polite society, so often at odds with one another--this series is a real treat.
I'd had this series on my "to read" list for a while now, and was most fortunate in finding the first two volumes on the shelf on a recent bookstore run. I am delighted to report that it was well worth the lost sleep. Can't wait to see what else this author has in store, and will certainly begin Changeless shortly and eagerly await the arrival of Blameless this fall. ...more