Heartless Mass Market Paperback – Jul 1 2011
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"Soulless is a character-driven romp with great worldbuilding and delicious rapier wit that recalls Austen and P.G. Wodehouse."―io9.com on Soulless
"Carriger has created a wonderfully detailed world that is just one step to the side of our own."―sfrevu.com on Changeless
"Carriger delivers surprises with every book, and this one is no exception. With action, intrigue, and above all, proper manners, this excellent series will have broad appeal to readers of steampunk, urban fantasy, and paranormal and historical romance."―Library Journal on Heartless
"A series for female fantasy fans that are looking for a stroke of ingenuity amongst the torrents of fanged fiction."―SciFi Now on Heartless
"Carriger's writing remains crisp and witty, and the affectionate banter between Lord and Lady Maccon will please series fans."―Publisher's Weekly on Heartless
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London.
The Parasol Protectorate books are: Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless. Soulless won the ALA's Alex Award. A manga adaptation released in Spring 2012 and a young adult series set in the same universe -- the Finishing School series -- launched in Spring 2013. Gail is soon to begin writing a new adult series, The Parasol Protectorate Abroad (2015).
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I'm going to be using the word delightful a lot in this review because it so perfectly describes nearly every aspect of HEARTLESS from the absurdly charming characters, to the outlandishly entertaining plot, and the endlessly witty--and thoroughly British--writing. Never a dull page, never a flat line, and never a wasted opportunity for preposterous frivolity. All of the characters we've grown to love and loath over the series are present in HEARTLESS, most prominently Lord Akeldama, Biffy, and Professor Lyall. We learn a number of very revealing details about the latter as well as Alexia's father.
One of my complaints about the last two books was how little page time Alexia and her husband shared since their relationship and interaction was one of the things that made the first book so fantastic. I have nothing to complain about on that point in HEARTLESS. Alexia and Conall are together in nearly every other scene. I loved watching him fuss over her because of her pregnancy and then grit his teeth when he had to let her run off--or waddle off as Alexia called walking at eight months pregnant--into potential danger.
The end of HEARTLESS was unbelievably good. So much is set up for the next book, specifically regarding the infant-inconvenience. Exactly what kind of baby will a preternatural and a werewolf have? I would never have guessed and I'm predicting it will add significantly to the already very unique mythology in this series.
Overall, book four in this indomitably clever and charming series, is as delightful as I hoped. The fifth book in The Parasol Protectorate series is called TIMELESS and will be published on March 1, 2011. It is currently the last book planned in the series, but I will always hope for more. We will be getting a spin-off YA series set in the same universe twenty-five years earlier called The Finishing School series. The first book is tentatively titled ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE and will be published in 2012.
Kissing. References to homosexuality. References to sex
Ivy is back--and readers, she is better than ever. Alexia's pregnancy brain and the solicitousness of her pack and butler are superb. The parasol protectorate is on a high in this book--if you loved the first book, and if you enjoy the idea, the banter, the laced civility and the sheer outrageousness of Ms Tarabotti, you'll be rolling with laughter and pleasure with this one.
I'd earlier said that Soulless was the best in the series--but that was before Heartless. Trippingly fun, delicious, and perfect with tea and treacle tart.
I was glad to see her husband once again faithfully by her side, and was not surprised that Alexia is not letting her pregnancy stand in the way of her duties to her country and her pack. Felicity and Madame LeFoux both return and bring their own surprises to a story that was well plotted and paced. While there are not quite as many interesting mechanical creations as before, the characters are stronger than ever, and the dialogue still pops along at a merry rate. I am glad to see this series solidly back on track and can't wait until the next installment!
Before I get as to why that is so, let me just briefly lay out the plot. _Heartless_ finds the "preternatural" Alexia now in the final weeks of her pregnancy and with very limited mobility suddenly called upon to quash a plot against the Queen's life, find a solution to continual vampire attempts on her own life, deal with her French inventor friend's melancholy (and crazy ghost Aunt), cope with her much unbeloved sister taking up residence in her home, and integrate a very unwilling new werewolf into her husband's pack. As usual, all these tasks will be accomplished with the assistance (competent or otherwise) of her unflappable butler, "looming" husband, oblivious best friend, London's gayest vampire, great quantities of tea and the worlds most dangerous parasol.
Why does this mix work less well here than in previous books? The answer will involve
First of all, Alexia seemed off her game in this book. Granted she is very pregnant, but that shouldn't have affected her wits. For some reason I never quite grasped, she becomes sure that the current attempt on "the Queen" must be tied to a failed attempt by the Scottish werewolves 20 years ago, and despite being told by multiple trustworthy people that it's very unlikely and no good can come from delving into that history, she bulls on. And in fact, there is no connection, and she learns things that make her very unhappy, ie: what everyone told her about the course of action was true. Now, clearly the sequence serves a purpose in the series meta-plot as important details about her father, husband, and other players are revealed, but by tying it all to a red-herring plot point, Carriger makes it all feel forced and unsatisfying. Surely the same facts could have been established in a more relevant manner?
Aside from wasting her time on a dead end, Alexia also seems much too oblivious to the consequences of introducing a swarmed vampire hive to her pack's castle. If the reader can pretty much predict the consequences (at least to the point of the hive not being able to leave if not that the werewolves will have to), then surely Alexia, who *lives* in the setting and is quite smart should be able to. She also misses clues about the emotional state of her inventor friend and her "son"'s strange absence.
This book also unwisely introduces (or at least I cannot recall it being stated in an earlier book) the concept that the location of vampire hives is secret. This is clearly nonsensical given that they host social functions constantly and that carraiges from all over London must converge there. However, even allowing that the way we allow that Lois never could tell Clark from Superman because of the glasses, it fails completely in that the London vampires have been trying to kill Alexia for months. It is one thing to keep someone's secret when you are nominally at peace, it is quite another to keep it (and for them to assume you will keep it) when they are making constant attempts on your life.
The ghost POV sections seem unnecessary to me as well, and really add very little to the book. (I'm also not clear why the ghost sees getting a message to Alexia as important).
That's not to say there aren't plenty of things to like about this book, for instance Alexia's complaint to her friend (more or less): "And creating an octomaton and rampaging across town was your first idea rather than talking to me?", the ongoing idea that Ivy is not as clueless as she seems and of course the sheer satisfaction of being able to consign one's sister to the dungeon.
Unanswered question 1 (or perhaps I just missed it): How *did* Biffy get out?
Unanswered question 2: Didn't anyone tell the cover artist that Alexia was very pregnant?
My biggest problem is Alexia. She has become completely unlikeable; no longer the funny, quirky pragmatist she started out as. Here, she makes a series of questionable decisions that result in dire consequences for herself and those around her, and rather than seeming logical, they just seemed stupid, and at times, cruel. She also comes off as a doormat, for example, with the vampire queen and hive. She seems eternally forgiving of the actions of those who don't deserve it (vampire queen, her sister...) and a stickler against those who deserve compassion (Lefoux).
Lord Maccon has been unwittingly manipulated by two packs, wrongfully abandoned his pregnant wife, is so inept at BUR he can't build a case against vampires trying to kill his wife (who don't seem to be hiding their efforts all that well), decides to give his child away to a vampire he doesn't trust (with no recourse should the vampire up and leave with the child), and lets himself and his pack be evicted from their home (including having his wife who had just given birth immediately kicked out). He's a bad husband, terrible government agent, and worse pack leader. What happened to the gruff, but lovable and capable romantic lead?
I can't even articulate my horror at the Acaldama adoption and pack relocation.
The only thing I enjoyed was Lyall, and the author even managed to ruin that. I don't mind Lyall's underhandedness to help his pack, but it didn't sit well with me that he was apparently the reason Alexia's father walked out on his pregnant wife, and seemingly felt no guilt about it. Lyall is my favorite character & I wanted to feel his heartbreak, but I couldn't get past the unsavory circumstances of his relationship.
Not only was I disappointed with the character development, the plot didn't hold my attention, and I found myself skipping through much of the book. Overall, this was just not a good book.