I waited anxiously for the final book of the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger to be released, and then made myself wait a little longer to actually buy it until my book budget was available and my time budget opened a sliver.
Carriger has created such a unique voice with this series I almost have to read it in a posh, British accent, which alone brings a smile to my face. The fact that Alexia Tarabotti is such an unapologetic iconoclast who navigates her way through life with the characteristic stiff upper lip and punctilious approach makes the series feel witty on a profoundly intellectual plane. Not to say there isn’t slapstick in there, but it comes off as unintentional humor in the face of the always-exciting existence of one of the very few preternaturals in the world.
After the ending of Heartless, I wondered how Carriger would carry the story forward. The blurb says:
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.
Until, that is, she receives a summons 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 Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?
To carry over the metaphor from the book: The Alexia Tarabotti books are appeasement for me along the lines of treacle tarts for Alexia. I gobbled this one down in an afternoon, and wished there were more to come.
The emotional range of this book took me by surprise, starting as it did with the fully ridiculous:
Ivy Tunstell, Alexia’s dear friend, played the vampire queen. She did so with much sweeping about the stage and fainting, her own fangs larger than anyone else’s, which made it so difficult for her to articulate that many of her speeches were reduced to mere spitting hisses. She wore a hat that was part bonnet, part crown, driving home the queen theme, in colors of yellow, red, and gold. Her husband, playing the enamored werewolf, pranced about in a comic interpretation of lupine leaps, barked a lot, and got into several splendid stage fights.
The oddest moment, Alexia felt, was a dreamlike sequence just prior to the break, wherein Tunstell wore bumblebee-striped drawers with attached vest and performed a small ballet before his vampire queen. The queen was dressed in a voluminous black chiffon gown with a high Shakespearian collar and an exterior corset of green with matching fan. Her hair was done up on either side of her head in round puffs, looking like bear ears, and her arms were bare. Bare!
Conall, at this juncture, began to shake uncontrollably.
What’s fascinating is that even here, there is foreshadowing, and the book’s structure neatly closes out both the story arc introduced in this final novel as well as the mystery of Alexia’s father and the nature of the impact preturnaturals can continue to have even in their death.
I was glad that in this series the final book didn’t lose any of the verve and originality that drew me to the story in the first place, and finished on the kind of strong note that really makes me hope there will be a book about Alexia’s offspring sometime down the road. In the meantime, I will reiterate my earlier, strong recommendations: This book is a lot of fun and absolutely worth reading for anyone who likes vampires, werewolves, steampunk ethos, or low fantasy/alternate history.