Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blameless by Gail Carriger

Posted by Simcha 4:42 PM, under | 2 comments

* Warning: This review does contain spoilers from previous books in the series as well as a spoiler regarding how Conall and Alexia's situation is resolved

After the dramatic ending of Changeless in which Alexia is banished by Lord Conall Maccon for supposedly cheating on him, Alexia returns to London, to her family's home. But when news of Alexia's situation becomes public her family turns her out and Queen Victoria revokes her status as mujah.

Alexia considers herself fortunate that she still has her good friend, Lord Akeldama, to turn to for assistance, but she arrives at his house only to discover that he has mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind a cryptic warning message for her.

Just as it seems like the situation can't get any worse, Alexia is attacked by a swarm of killer, mechanical ladybugs, making it apparent that someone is intent on doing away with her. Alexia therefore decides that it would probably be best for her to leave London for a while and so she heads off to Italy to try to uncover some information about other prenaturals, like herself.

Accompanying Alexia is her eccentric friend, Madame Lefoux, and her father's former valet, Floote, both of whom will provide Alexia with the support she will need while traveling across Europe and avoiding the assassins on their trail.

Meanwhile Lord Maccon is in a constant state of intoxication and his Beta, Professor Lyall, has his hands full keeping the pack together while trying to track down the missing Lord Akeldama.

I had really enjoyed Soulless and was excited at the release of each addition to the series but so far neither Changeless or Blameless have met the high expectations that Soulless had led me to anticipate. Many of the aspects that I so enjoyed in Soulless were not present in the two books that followed it, much to my disappointment.

The trouble with writing a series of books is in maintaining the creativity and uniqueness of the first book in the series, in each of the following books. While Soulless had introduced some interesting and fresh ideas about supernatural creatures, as well as some colorful and memorable characters, not much is added in the development of these characters or in expanding upon of the ideas from the first book, in Blameless So the excitement in discovering something new, that I had when reading Soulless, was lacking for me here.

Soulless was also very much a romance and Alexia and Conall's interactions were some of my favorite parts of the book. I had wondered how Carriger would keep the story interesting after she marries off these two characters, and while she does come up with some promising story ideas unfortunately they lack the magic of the first book because my two favorite characters barely interact with each other in the sequels.

In Blameless, Alexia and Conall are apart for most of the book as Alexia sets off for Italy and Conall focuses on remaining intoxicated. Most of the book is told from Alexia's perspective and Conall remains a vague character whose thoughts and feeling are closed to the reader. In Soulless I had enjoyed getting both characters perspectives on events and was disappointed that this wasn't the case in Blameless.

My biggest disappointment, though, was how Conall reacts once he realized that he was in the wrong, and how easily Alexia forgives him. The scene in which Conall accuses Alexia of infidelity and curses her out was explosive and dramatic and I thought their eventual reunion should be equally powerful. In fact, I was looking forward to that very moment ever since reading the end of Changeless. I had expected some major groveling from Conall, and perhaps a few rejections from Alexia, but the easy bantering and quick forgiveness that does take place both surprised and disappointed me.

The story of Alexia's travels to Italy and her frequent battles against assassins also didn't really interest me as much as the stories in the previous two books. After a while events seem to become repetitive and based on what happened in Soulless I was able to predict the outcome of Blameless. While the delightful dialogue between Alexia and her companions kept me reading steadily I didn't feel as hooked by the story as I had expected to be.

I also felt that the flow of the story got disturbed when the characters would frequently whip out various mechanical contraptions which they would proceed to describe at length. I was reminded of those old television sitcoms in which a box of condensed milk or a jar of coffee would suddenly be brought out and enthused upon by the actors. While I realize that Blameless is meant to be a steampunk novel I thought that the steampunk elements could have been integrated into the story more gracefully.

Despite the faults I found with the book I still enjoyed Carriger's writing and spending time with some of the wonderful characters that she has created. While I will continue to look forward to each addition to the Parasol Protectorate series I do hope that the next book will recapture those aspects which had so thoroughly delighted me in Soulless.


I still haven't returned to this series after Soulless although I keep meaning to. Perhaps I shouldn't???

What I loved most about Soulless was "the voice" - it had a fresh, witty quality to it.

Stephanie: Carriger's writing style is the same, which is why I will continue to read the books. But if you didn't enjoy Soulless enough to want to follow up with the sequels I don't think you will like the other books any better because that was the best one so far.

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