The cover asserts that this is “a novel of vampires, werewolves and parasols,” and so the uniqueness begins. The series is set in Victorian London, and combines the genres of paranormal romance and steampunk along with, I suppose, alternate history. And there is a mystery as well. Most interesting.
Alexia Tarabotti is a confirmed spinster of the advanced age of twenty-six. There are several setbacks to her marriageability: her father is both dead and (was) Italian; he gave her a swarthy complexion; her nose is rather large; she is tall; and her personality is far too assertive and prickly to make her a decent wife. Furthermore, she is a preternatural – meaning, she has no soul. In Alexia’s society, werewolves and vampires are well-integrated into society (if not entirely accepted in all circles). To become a vampire or a werewolf, one must have an excess of soul; Alexia’s total lack thereof means that she can, with a touch, neutralize supernatural qualities. At the opening of the book, a vampire attacks her and in defending her, she accidentally kills him. The werewolf authority sent to investigate the death is a peer, one Lord Maccon, with whom she has tangled in the past. As new vampires begin appearing where they shouldn’t, and known vampires (and werewolves) fail to appear where they should, Alexia comes under suspicion. The clever and not-to-be-daunted Alexia, with her preternatural abilities to help her along, works on solving the mystery, further motivated on repeated attempts to abduct her. Lord Maccon works on the mystery because it’s his job. The two have some personality clashes but are also drawn to each other (cue the classic romance-novel device).
There is no arguing against the absolute silliness of this book, but it is oh! so much fun! I really enjoyed the romance that develops between Lord Maccon and Alexia. They struggle with understanding one another’s culture in their courtship: his involves pack dynamics that she’s unfamiliar with, and hers involves chaperones and proper proceedings that Alexia herself is not terribly comfortable with, being such a spinster. Carriger writes some very funny scenes; I giggled aloud. The mystery is engaging. The steampunk background was totally new to me and didn’t necessarily add anything to the appeal, other than being a layer of interest, something shiny to look at between steamy scenes.
I am surprised at myself, because I haven’t liked any paranormal romances yet; but despite the vampires (Lord Akeldama is great fun!) and the werewolves (Lord Maccon is really a sexy beast) this was an engaging, entertaining, clever story with a very likeable main character. I think I’ll seek out more of the Parasol Protectorate series! I wonder if we’ll ever learn more about the incident involving the hedgehog?? Thanks Amy for a very strong recommendation!