Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2011
A steampunk historical mystery review

Heartlessthumb

Alexia Tarabotti faces continued assassination attempts on her person with hilarious resignation. Not so when a deranged ghost reports a plot against the queen. Alexia’s investigations lead her headlong into the Kingair plot of the past, the secrets of other women, and oh, yes-her final month of pregnancy.

Firmly back in London, and in control of husband, home, and helping, Alexia’s indomitable spunk and efficiency return this series to the light-hearted antics of Soulless. Heartless allows Alexia to upend supernatural society, even while it delves more deeply into her supporting cast. Biffy, Lyle, and Lord Maccon all hold together and even out the tone of this work so that the deep undertones begun in Blameless continue to support the world and characters of this creamier, more refreshing novel, like a tart on firm, chocolate crust. With plenty of fun and significant revelations, Heartless is an enjoyable rush to a climactic, parasol-dropping crescendo that will have you searching for the last book in Gail Carriger’s series.

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 3)

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 3)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2010
A steampunk historical romance review

GermanBlameless

On her own, Alexia finds herself facing down epic scandal, betrayal, and assassins wielding homicidal ladybugs. Needless to say, she responds by gathering loyal companions and traveling across Europe to find answers, be it from scientists, murderous vampires, or even the Holy Templars.

An involving, quick read, Blameless amps up the action and world-building. The supernatural machinations behind this plot lead to more twists and consequences for the Maccons’ set. From devious schemes and werewolf drunkenness on the home front to the strange and sinister philosophies of Europe, Carriger puts her characters through the wringer. The expansion of French and Italian culture continues to expand this fascinating paranormal world with Alexia’s spirited tourism and unexpected transports to lead the way.

The middle book, Blameless proves the least light-hearted, but brings a passion and a flawed reality to these characters that enhances them through the rest of the series. Like tea, a sip of the unsweetened stuff will make the properly served version taste even better.

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 2)

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 2)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2010

A steampunk historical romance review

GermanChangeless

Changeless sees the intrepid Alexia Tarabotti settled into a position of power, both as muhjah to the queen and Alpha of the Woolsey pack. So when immortals of all kinds suddenly begin to lose their powers on a wide scale, Conall Maccon runs off to tend to his old Scottish pack, and suspicious activity begins to follow Alexia around, she is naturally up to the task.

This sequel considerably broadens Carriger’s world in several directions, by introducing the rest of Conall’s werewolf pack, delving into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Alpha’s move to London, taking readers to Scotland, and uncovering more details about this world’s intriguing rules and wherefores. The new characters are introduced and expanded without taking away from the original characters’ growth, the numerous mysteries facing Alexia keep the plot steaming along full-speed ahead, and this heroine performs her antics with such aplomb that I didn’t mind that some questions don’t get wrapped up until later books. Amazingly, the clothing details of bizarre hats and edgy attire attain even greater heights of distinction in this work.

In short, this is the vindicated and indomitable Alexia Maccon as everyone loves to see her, and the plot has enough going on to keep her busy and readers highly entertained. However, unlike Soulless, this book ends on an abrupt note that requires swift continuation into Blameless, so have it at the ready.

Ironskin

 

Ironskin

By: Tina Connolly

(http://tinaconnolly.com/)

Published by: Tor (2012)

A young adult steampunk fantasy review

 

Ironskin-cover

 

The Great War blasted Jane Eliot’s life apart, just as the fey blasted her cheek with their curse.  Now she is ironskin, forced to cover her face with an iron mask to keep others safe.  When Mr. Rochart advertises for a governess to care for a girl in a “delicate situation,” Jane knows she can help this fellow victim.  Yet, a lot more greets Jane at her new position than a difficult child.  Jane finds there are more curses than she knows, and learns about masks more burdensome than iron.

The framework of Jane Eyre brings this novel a natural sinking point for the reader to dive in and let themselves go.  We already know the basis for this romance, for these main characters’ traits, so we are free to splash through the vivid colors of the war with the fey, the steampunk world details, and the new barriers that this Jane faces right away.  Knowing the strengths to expect from this Jane could have been disastrous if she didn’t match up, but the fact that she so resoundingly does makes the story of what this Jane remembers and how she chooses that much more endearing than if she’d had no one to live up to.  Similarly, knowing we will eventually reach certain turning points in the story makes the building parts more purely intriguing rather than tense.  Jane’s charge, Dorie, plays a much larger role in this book and we learn a lot through interacting with her.  Jane’s dynamic with Mr. Rochart leans heavily on audience foreknowledge for the romance, but he allows us to see new angles of this Jane and how she sees herself.  Jane Eliot’s identity rests between visions of herself where she has various levels of opportunity, personal connections, and beauty.  Exploring the ties between these things among all her characters, Connolly pulls on chords familiar to us all while grounding her fantastic society.

The new details and mysteries swirling through this world keep the pace swift as we long to know not just what will happen next but what has already happened.  Each character in here is Connolly’s own and indelibly set within this strange world, so even those who can’t bear the thought of an impure Jane Eyre should be able to read it without flinching.  The prose engages and surrounds with firm moments and beautiful imagery.  The only issue I had was that the ending is rushed.  After such lovely delving and swooping through this gothic tale I was suddenly crashed right through the center of things, with no opportunity to get my bearings or start to breathe again.  It lacks that last chapter, where loose ends are tied up and you can feel the satisfaction of knowing how things have turned out.  I still have some questions that I doubt the sequel, from Helen’s point of view, will answer.  Basically, I needed more!  And I still do, so I’m relieved there is a sequel.  I loved reading Ironskin.

 

Questions I Still Have (BEWARE SPOILERS):

-So, where WAS all Rochart’s money going??  I mean, it’s implied that he’s paying off his ex-wife’s father, but the guy’s a village shop owner and no one is saying he’s living it up, so he can hardly be using up all of Edward’s vast fees.  What happened to the rest of it?  Is Poule sending a bundle back to her clan?

-Wait, so if the curses and things are all parts of actual fey being punished by separation, then if whoever takes charge over the fey next decides to pull their forces together or end some punishments, or time just runs out, people’s FACES could just FLY OFF??  I do not think people are concerned enough about this possibility.

-Why were blue tendrils trying to keep Rochart in the forest that time if the queen’s plan was for him to keep coming back and giving people fey faces, anyway?

-So, if Dorie can see people she cares about through walls, does that mean that all the fey can just see through anything but iron?

-If it was Edward’s fey gift that meant he could remove people’s faces, then how can he reverse the procedure now it’s gone?  Is Jane going to make Dorie do it?

-Can all fey just feel everyone’s feelings and where they are if they care about them?

-Shouldn’t it matter that Jane’s current face came from a mask with a forehead chip?  Is it just going to look like there’s a birthmark up there or what?

 

Please tell me if you’ve ideas about these!

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Similar Posts:

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/the-horns-of-ruin/

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/bitterblue/

The Horns of Ruin

The Horns of Ruin

By: Tim Akers

(shadoth.blogspot.com)

Pyr 2010

A fantasy action steampunk review

Eva Forge lives to kick ass and honor the name of the warrior god Morgan.  The fact that Morgan is dead, betrayed, means that she is the last of Morgan’s paladins.  The fact that her cult now faces deadly, mysterious attackers means that Eva will have to face not just weapons, but secrets, politics, and panic on her own.

 

Eva’s strong voice carries The Horns of Ruin at a good, action-filled pace from cover to cover.  Her supporting cast offers intrigue and humorous relief.  However, no one, not even Eva, can claim a fully developed character.  Akers is particularly short on backstory.  While a couple protagonists do receive some growth, it is more hinted at than realized in the writing.  Arguably, this book has enough to do with explaining the city’s history, current layout, and the workings of the various factions.  The combination of steampunk devices with sword-and-sorcery action adds to the confusion.  The city of Ash contains many complicated details and these are relayed to the reader in a kind of rhythm-chorusing what we already know and steadily adding new verses without losing pace with the action.  This method is not as smooth as it could be, but it’s serviceable and won’t bore or overwhelm.

 

The plot of The Horns of Ruin contains large twists that are actually quite predictable and many small points that are not.  The use of history and knowledge in this world’s logistics is clever without forcing messages on anyone.  Everything builds on a fight scene.  These are written with aesthetics in mind; it’s a shame this story isn’t visual.  As it is, these grew rather repetitive to me towards the end, but it could be a matter of taste.  Nevertheless, the true core of the story is simple: Eva kicks ass.  As such, this is a fun, quick read with cool images thrown in.  The cover image by Benjamin Carré and the chapter fonts are definitely awesome.  But I doubt I’d read any sequels.