Few things in life are more delightful than a new Alexia Tarabotti book. In HEARTLESS, the best installment since the debut, every single page is embellished with equal parts wit and farce. The Parasol Protectorate series, a comedy of manners set in a paranormal steampunk Britain, chronicles the adventures of Lady Alexia Tarabotti and her latest escapades involve attempting to thwart as assassination plot on the Queen, keeping the local vampire hive from killing her yet again, and finding a solution to a former vampire wannabe's unwilling induction to the werewolf pack...all while eight months pregnant.
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