I have to say this right away: I loved how this series started, but every book has been a little less great than its predecessor. As we constantly rehash the same ideas and make the same jokes, I got tired of Alexia (formerly) Tarabotti and her entourage of whimsical friends. But I can’t leave a series like this unfinished (especially if I got this far) and dove nose-first into Timeless to see if, maybe, I just got an overdose of Parasol Protectorate the first time around…
published: Orbit, March 2012
series: The Parasol Protectorate #5
my rating: 5,5/10
first sentence: “I said no such thing,” grumbled Lord Maccon, allowing himself, begrudgingly, to be trussed in a new evening jacket.
Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire’s second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell’s acting troupe’s latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia’s enjoyment of her new London lifestyle. Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?
I don’t know what it is exactly but I get the feeling, Gail Carriger (who is super-nice, btw) created a nice little cozy world with her Parasol Protectorate series, but doesn’t seem to want to explore or expand it too much. Which is a shame because I would just love to learn more about airships, octomatons, supernaturals, preternaturals and, especially, metanaturals. The author does come up with one little tidbit of new information in every book, but mostly, the explanations aren’t worth the pages it takes getting there.
Maybe I shouldn’t have started on such a negative note. Dear readers, know that I absolutely adore Alexia Tarabotti and her bluestocking ways. Soulless was a surprise literary crush for me and I devoured the first three books in the series in one go. Gail Carriger has a way with whimsy. Be it Alexia’s shock at the taste of coffee (what a ghastly beverage, really! Why doesn’t the entire world simply drink tea?), the silly hats of Ivy Tunstell, or even the expressions used by the author to describe her heroes and heroines. These books have one thing, above all others, and that is flair. Diving into a Parasol Protectorate novel is switching off the real world for a while in the most pleasant ways.
But. I’ve said it in my opening to this post. While Soulless was a perfect little novel for me, Changeless was already a tiny bit less good, with every sequel being still a tiny bit less good. The first half of Timeless was actually rather tedious to read. It takes almost exactly that half to get interesting, for the plot to pick up. I enjoy Alexia’s antics and Lord Akeldama’s ridiculous nicknames for everybody. But we’ve all seen it before. We’ve been told the same jokes and were supposed to smile about the same silly things (such as Ivy’s hats) for four entire books. And the first chapter or so, I enjoyed being back in that world of vampires, werewolves, and parasols. But, simply stated, then it just got boring.
At the 50% mark, the plot picks up with surprising speed, though, and I was intruigued yet again. I wanted to learn, as much as Alexia, what was going on, and finally get a satisfying answer to questions that have been around for several books in the series. While the payoff wasn’t really that great (again, nothing new to be learned, really), there were some great action scenes and a handful of new, interesting character developments that kept me well entertained. I always enjoy when authors get out of the safe zone and write about gay love. And while I’m not sure if this particular couple wouldn’t have deserved a more in-depth exploration of their characters and budding love, I enjoyed reading about it.
In conclusion, I highly recommend the first novel in the series, the rest not so much. But I do look forward to Etiquette and Espionage and hope that we’ll get to see a lot more of the charming world this charming author has created.
THE GOOD: This last instalment in the series delivers exactly what you expect. Silliness, tea, airtravel, vampires and werewolves.
THE BAD: Takes a long time to pick up the pace, then we get the same things we got from previous instalments.
THE VERDICT: A fun, light story that you’ll probably want to read if you liked the rest of the series. A lot of potential was left unfulfilled, though.
RATING: 5,5/10 A little better than meh.