I really am working on my sci-fi/fantasy reading list, but the copy I’d reserved of Changeless by Gail Carriger came in and I decided to read it before A Game of Thrones, which I’m just about to start. Changeless is the sequel to Soulless, the first book in the “Parasol Protectorate” series.
No spoilers for Changeless, possible spoilers for Soulless…though I’ll try to keep them minimal, nothing you couldn’t have guessed early on.
I read Soulless earlier in May and really enjoyed it. The ‘verse is a sort-of steampunk alt-Victorian England in which there are supernaturals. One might compare it to the True Blood books (which I also enjoyed), though the writing style and plots are quite different.
Supernaturals all have an abundance of soul. They can become vampires or werewolves in rather traditional ways or else they end up as ghosts. There seem to be only the three kinds of supernaturals. Being a vampire or werewolf is fine (as long as you were right about that abundance of soul & don’t just die instead), being a ghost kind of sucks because you’re “tethered” to one place and unless you’re exorcised, you’ll go progressively mad as your body decays.
Enter our heroine, Alexia Tarabotti. She is a preternatural, the opposite of a supernatural. She’s a “soul-sucker” “curse-breaker” and potential exorciser (emphasis on potential). She has no soul at all but plenty of spirit. If she touches a vampire or werewolf, they instantly lose all supernatural abilities as long as she maintains contact (and specifically supernatural weaknesses, such as combusting in sunlight). If she touches a ghost, it’s exorcised for good.
Both books could fall into the fantasy/mystery/romance genres…I’d have to say that they’re mysteries set in a fantasy world with a healthy dollop of romance and humor. In Soulless, Alexia helps the Bureau of Unnatural Registry solve the mystery of who’s been kidnapping vampires and werewolves and why new vampires are showing up and dying.
Changeless takes place a mere three months after her having married an extremely powerful Alpha wolf (if you didn’t see this coming by chapter two of Soulless, I’m sorry for spoiling but it’s really quite evident they’ll end up together). Something is happening in England (and Scotland, whence comes her husband and where much of the story takes place) which prevents werewolves from changing into their wolf forms and vampires from being vampires.
In her various roles, Alexia attempts to unravel the complicated plots that bring all the players to this remote castle in Scotland and discover the source of the humanizing. There’s a cross-dressing French female inventor (again with the cross-dressing, I’ve got a real weakness), Alexia’s husband’s great-great-great granddaughter (who is older than the pair of them and a feisty human wolf pack leader), a whole pack of werewolves whom Alexia’s husband abandoned (for good reason?), Alexia’s best friend and annoying little sister, and someone is trying to kill her.
One of my favorite things about this ‘verse is its emphasis on werewolves, pack dynamics, etc, over things like Buffy and True Blood whose primary supernatural beings are the vampires. It’s more comprehensive and quite interesting.
I’ve enjoyed both of these books very much, they make excellent reading on the metro or at lunch when I’m trying to get away from it all. The endings of both were properly gripping. Changeless resolves the mystery at hand but leaves us in another pickle, which Carriger will deal with in the sequel, Blameless, which I’m looking forward to reading when it comes out in September.
Edited to add: For Cthulhu lovers…there’s an octopus motif.