Monday, April 5, 2010

Review: Changeless

Changeless by Gail Carriger
Book Two of the Parasol Protectorate Series

Changeless by Gail Carriger is the sequel to her debut novel, Soulless.  I initially heard about Soulless at staff in-service day from one of the librarians I work with (I myself am not a librarian), and I put the book on hold to read later.  Three months later, it finally made its way to me, and I devoured it.  I eagerly anticipated Changeless, so much so that I actually bought the book.  Processing at my library is slow (on top of budget cuts) and so this book is still “on order”.  I couldn’t wait.

The Parasol Protectorate Series is a steampunk comedy set in an alternative 1870s London that includes werewolves and vampires.  While Soulless was a historical romance spoof, Changeless is a mystery with gothic elements.  It picks up three months after the events in Soulless, and continues to use Alexia Maccon née Tarabotti as its main character.  Most of our cast of heroes from book one are still around, though some of them are there in limited roles, with one or two additions.

The mystery in Changeless is that something in London has caused all supernaturals to lose their abilities.  IE: werewolves and vampires become normal, and ghosts completely disappear.  As part of her new duties on the Shadow Council, Queen Victoria tasks Alexia with finding out what is going on, and hopefully put a stop to it.  Alexia dutifully sets off with entourage (because women in the Victorian age, married or not, never travel without an entourage) to solve a mystery amidst a healthy dose of comedic relief.

Overall, I very much liked the book.  Changeless greatly expands the world Carriger built in Soulless, answering some questions about supernaturals and how that side of the British Empire is governed.  However, much of the book is world set up, rather than plot set up.  Carriger has admitted that Soulless was initially intended to be a standalone novel, but that she was encouraged upon its purchase by Orbit (a subsidiary of Hatchet) to expand it into a series.  So while Soulless introduces the main premise of the world and the main characters, Changeless is the one that really feels like the foundation for a series.  Some of the comedic subplots also bloat the book to a larger size than I’m used to for a mystery of this relative simplicity.  Not that that’s a bad thing, it just feels like Carriger is using Changeless to shift gears, and her forthcoming third novel Blameless (September 2010) may be where she fully finds her stride.  If you hate cliff hangers, don't read the last chapter of Changeless OR the included excerpt from Blameless.  For myself, September is going to be a long four months away.

I’ll issue the same warning with Changeless that I did with Soulless: this author is not afraid of big fancy words.  If you don’t have a large vocabulary, have a dictionary or thesaurus on hand while reading.  Don’t let that scare you off though, as Carriger’s wordplay is, to me, one of the biggest selling points of her work.

Due to Amazon e-book pricing negotiations/wars, you might have problems getting Changeless in the Kindle Store.  As of this posting, you can only pre-order the e-book version.  However, you can buy Changeless from Barnes and Noble in e-book format for the same price as the Kindle Store and get it today (yay for healthy competition in the marketplace).  Or, you can be anachronistic like me and buy Changeless in print format, possibly for less than the e-book depending on where you buy your print material.

My review of Soulless, the first book of the series, is here.


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