on May 21, 2010
The newly-wed Alexia has started her job as Queen Victoria's muhjah on the Shadow Council. The Council, consisting of the potentate (a vampire), the dewan (a werewolf), and the muhjah, advise the Queen on supernatural and preternatural matters within the empire. As she leaves Woolsey Castle for a Council meeting, she stumbles over a regiment or two's worth of werewolves setting up a bivouac on her front lawn. As it turns out, werewolves serve in the Queen's Army, and this particular crowd has just returned from India by way of Eqypt. Past practice has them meeting at Woolsey Castle before being dismissed to return home. Alexia meets her husband's 3rd (Major Channing), who doesn't recognize her for who she is, and nearly has to take up her parasol to defend herself before saner heads (specifically Professor Lyall) intervene. Alexia no sooner sends the werewolves off to set up their camp in the back garden when her best friend Ivy Hisselpenny arrives in a great to-do, bursting to tell Alexia her splendid news. All of which happens in Chapter One and before Alexia can even get off her property!
So begins the 2nd book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, and I couldn't have asked for a better sequel. Alexia is blooming in her role on the Shadow Council. Add to that a husband who understands her well enough to commission a very special parasol for her and she feels herself a lucky woman indeed. But what's life without a few challenges, eh? Alexia certainly has her work cut out for her what with Conall slipping off to Scotland without a word to her, a mysterious phenomenon that renders the supernaturals in London super-less, and an female inventor/scientist who dresses like a man and sets Alexia's instincts buzzing. What choice does she have but to follow Conall to Scotland (by dirigible!) so that she can warn him that the phenomenon seems to be mobile and has preceded him to Scotland? And what choice do you have but to read this and find out what happens. You won't be disappointed, I promise you!
Something has happened in the heart of London. The vampires and werewolves in the area have lost their supernatural abilities and the ghosts tethered there have disappeared, apparently exorcised. Is it coincidence that this has happened at the same time that several troop ships from the east have returned to England. whatever the cause, Alexia has been tasked by Queen Victoria to get to the bottom of it.
Lord and Lady Maccon have been married three months and are still enjoying their newlywed status when Conall is obliged to travel to his ancestral home in the Scottish highlands. It isn't long till Alexia's investigation leads her to follow him.
As we learned in Soulless, the first book in this series, trouble seems to follow Alexia. Marriage has not changed this aspect of her life. Even when travelling in the confined environment of the dirigible, she has her intrigues.
Along with returning characters vampire Lord Akeldama and the wonderfully hatted Ivy Hisselpenny, we are introduced to the enigmatic Madame Lefoux. Dressed as a man, she is much more than the hat maker than she claims to be. I imagine that someone such as her would have been a like a fresh breeze in such a rigid society. All those rules of etiquette to be obeyed even when it is one's own family visiting. Ivy is still a colourful character with her wild hats and gaily patterned outfits. We also see a different side of her. Previously I thought her fairly frivolous, though when she sees that Alexia is having a social challenge, she jumps right in and re-directs the conversation into another area, even though she has no idea what she is talking about. A very funny scene that had me chuckling out loud.
Just as with Soulless, I loved this story. It was definitely fun and entertaining, but at the same time but it does look at the roll of women in society at that time. I find it odd, that in a country where the queen is quite able to rule the empire, the majority of women are deemed just suitable to run their house staff and shop for pretty things. Thanks to author Gail Carriger for making Alexia such a capable women, but not making her perfect in every aspect.