Friday, 8 July 2011

Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger

Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble in the air is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines - and Alexia barely has time to remember she just happens to be eight months pregnant. Will Alexia be able to figure out who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it's too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf's clothing? And do they really have to take up residence in Lord Akeldama's second best closet?

I’ve tried to keep spoilers for HEARTLESS to a minimum. However due to it being the fourth in the series there may be spoilers for the preceding three books. Consider yourself duly warned.

I think this book has proven once and for all that when I’m desperate to get my hands on something enough, I’m not above bribery, as one poor bookshop attendant can testify to.

The point is that ‘Blameless’ left us in such a tantalizing place that I simply couldn’t wait to get back into Alexia’s world and see what on earth she was going to get up to next.

And ‘Heartless’ doesn’t disappoint. It dives straight in to Alexia at eight months pregnant and highly inflated as a result. This doesn’t stop the formidable Lady Maccon though, it merely slows her pace to a waddle, and demands assistance to stand up. Oh and plenty of falling on her bustle. I am amazed the poor child didn’t miscarry after the amount of falling about she did.

Alexia at full strength is amusing. Alexia at full pregnancy is downright hilarious. She doesn’t seem to show any fear or worry for the ‘infant inconvenience’ – her husband does most of that for her. But then I would have been alarmed had she started showing particular emotions. Alexia is after all lacking in the soul department.

Alexia is fab, but Ms Carriger also excels at secondary characters, and it was so good to get more of an insight into some faces we already know. Maccon stopped being an overbearing alpha and turned into a man, and I have to admit to breaking down a little when he broke down in the darkness by Alexia. And Lyall – it’s always the quiet ones. It was good to see some extra layers to the quiet and unobtrusive beta. But sometimes it’s also the loud and annoying ones – read here Felicity, who I wanted to smack soundly with a parasol. I knew she was irritating, but this takes the biscuit. Biffy – oh my poor sweet darling, he is one of the most fascinating characters to watch as he battles his past, his present and his future as they all threaten to overwhelm him.

But perhaps the two awards for secondary characters who I want to keep with me for always go to: Ivy Tunstall. I very nearly died from over laughing at the Ivy being inducted into the Parasol Protectorate. And thank goodness Alexia finally is realizing that Ivy isn’t all silly hats!

And of course, Lord Akeldama. Having more of him around instead of just the odd moment when Alexia pops round for tea made for some interesting character insights. And I think that was the biggest thing for me, the different facets each character revealed this time, which made me view all of them in a slightly different light than I had at the end of ‘Blameless’. I won’t go into too much detail here as I don’t want to ruin it for those of you who haven’t read this instalment yet, but I may come back and do a discussion post at a later less spoilery date, because I really found the character development to be the most exciting thing, and it left me quiet eager to find out where they all go from here.

Everything about this book is sheer sparkling brilliance. The writing is witty, providing some very necessary light relief at a time when we could all do with a giggle. The characters are thoroughly layered and deeply satisfying to follow, and Ms Carriger’s imagination knows no bounds. Zombie Porcupines?... As pets?... No one else could manage to pull off such a stunning feat of elegant manners, witticisms, ridiculous hats and tea.

Heartless is available now at all good bookstores, and you can read Gail Carriger’s Q & A with Bookaholics Anonymous here.

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