Changeless by Gail Carriger
This book was one of my most eagerly awaited books of 2010, and with good reason. When I read Soulless, Alexia Tarabotti quickly climbed pretty damn near the top of the heap of my favorite characters. I was in love, a smitten kitten. But Gail Carriger didn't stop there, because she gave me Lord Akeldama and Lord Maccon, Professor Lyall and Ivy Hisselpenny. And Biffy! Spiffy Biffy, I adore you, too. Could it get any better?
Yes, it could, because she added to the bunch Madame Lefoux, yet another character after my heart. Carriger excels at writing not only exceptional characters, but exceptionally, deliciously eccentric ones, and you know I love me some eccentric. For all of their forward, anachronistic tendencies, they still seem somehow at home in Carriger's Victorian steampunk world, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate that she had a character named Featherstonehaugh, which is very fun to say in my head. (Festenhew, if you were wondering. No joke.)
But I really didn't mean to start this review on a tangent.
In Changeless, Alexia Tarabotti is a Tarabotti no more; she has married Lord Maccon and stepped into her role as Lady Maccon and the Queen's muhjah , and seems to have everything under control. But when something goes wrong with her husband's former pack in Scotland, Alexia, with an impressive -- if univited -- entourage in tow follows him to Scotland where she finds herself perhaps a little more out of her depths than she's used to.
It was fun to see Alexia sleuthing again, and making the most of her scientific mind (with a plethora of new toys at her disposal AND another forward-thinking though slightly suspect woman as her companion). The mystery was fun, but more fun, as always, was the interactions between the characters. Even though Ivy started getting on my nerves a little bit (gasp), she had some of the best lines, ever. Take:
(Upon seeing men in kilts)
Miss Hisselpenny did not seem to know where to look. Finally she settled on staring up at the candelabra in abject terror. "Alexia," she hissed to her friend, "there are knees positively everywhere! What do I do?"
"Oh dear. Has something untoward ensued? Everyone is gesticulating."
She's just the perfect foil for any seriousness or...how to say this? intelligent conversation that may go on from time to time. She's the fanning upper-class version of slapstick. I can't stay mad at her, even when she is annoying. And she's on the bottom of the totem of favorite characters, so it just gets better from there. These are the types of "people" you want to invite into your brain [readthisreadthisreadthis:] and keep there [loveitloveitloveit:]. If you haven't picked up the first book in the Parasol Protectorate, kick yourself and then go get it.
I feel, though, like I need to address the end of the book, and I'm really not sure how to do that, so I'm going to tiptoe and talk in circles here a bit. Excuse me. There's a part of me that is so damn frustrated with the way this book ended (I wanted to reach through the pages and shake a certain character. Hard. Teeth-rattlingly hard), but at the same time, I don't think it could have ended any other way, and I would have felt like it was a cop out not to have ended the way it did. So as much as I want to be frustrated and angry with Carriger, I can't, because I think she wrote the ending that was supposed to be there. I respect that; not enough authors do that.
But it also means that I am tearing at my skin like a mental patient with the anxious need to get my hands on book three. Like you have no idea. I keep looking at Changeless like it's going to morph into the [stunning:] cover of Blameless. I neeeed it. It's like I'm turning into Gollum: I just want to hold it and stroke it and call it my preciousss. But first I want to read it.
I need to read it.
I don't think there's any better endorsement.