Since Heartless, the fourth book in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, is dropping this week, it seems like the perfect time to write about the series, which I started reading just this month.
The first three books in the series are Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless. As with any series, the synopses of the later books include spoilers so read them at your own risk.
The Parasol Protectorate books are not particularly easy to classify. They're steampunk paranormal romance and/or mysteries.1 They're set primarily in a Victorian England (Queen Victoria is a secondary character) that has fully integrated paranormals (in this case werewolves, vampires, and ghosts) into society. It is widely know that humans with an excess of soul can become ghosts when they die, they can also be successfully turned into vampires or werewolves (humans with a normal amount of soul, however, don't survive the process).
The protagonist of the series, one Alexia Tarabotti, is a bit of an enigma. She's half English and half Italian, tall and curvaceous, but darkly complected with an overlarge nose. A confirmed spinster at five and twenty. Alexia's mother never even bothered to put her on the market, given her looks, strong personality, and bluestocking tendencies. She's also a preternatural, a very rare person lacking any soul whatsoever, a trait she inherited from the Italian father she never knew. While this fact is widely known within the paranormal community, polite society knows her only as eccentric.
The books are light, but filled with personality. The world Carriger has created is interesting (I particularly like that the success of the British empire is tied to the integration of the paranormal elements into society) and the restrictions she puts on the paranormal species seem to be in line with their various mythoi and make their integration into society seem like something the populace would actually accept.
Alexia is unique and likable. The series' secondary characters are a wonderfully full cast and often provide additional comic relief. Two of my favorites are Ivy and Prof. Lyall. Miss Ivy Hisselpenny, Alexia's best friend, has a weakness for atrocious hats and a gift for garbling the English language (she's constantly misusing idioms and the like). Professor Lyall is the long-suffering beta of the Woolsey pack (the focus of his academic research is quite funny, but I won't mention that here since it doesn't come up until book 3).
After reading Soulless, I placed an order for the other books straight away (clearing out my Amazon gift certificate balance). Once Changeless and Blameless arrived, I inhaled them.
Amberkatze of Amberkatze's Book Blog has an interview with Carriger and a drawing for a signed copy of Soulless (book 1) open through June 30.
If you like the clothes featured on the American covers of the Parasol Protectorate books, you may want to check out Clockwork Couture. Steely Daniella's Corseted Bustle Skirt is featured on the covers of Heartless and Timeless (forthcoming March 2012). The Victorian 2 Piece Traveling Suit appears on the covers of the first three books.
Also, Carriger has a couple blogs: her main blog and her recently launched Retro Rack.
- Soulless is paranormal romance with some mystery/suspense, while the other books tend more toward the mystery side of things.