Changeless is the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Soulless is the first novel in the series, and the next novel Blameless will be released in September of this year (which is something to be thankful for because the ending to Changeless could drive one crazy). It’s difficult to categorize these books with a genre – Changeless is part mystery, part comedy and set in an alternate Victorian England brimming with vampires, werewolves and ghosts.
There will be spoilers for the first book in this review as it would be rather difficult to discuss it without revealing a rather major occurrence that happened close to the end of Soulless.
Alexia is not having a good evening. First she is abruptly awakened earlier than usual by Lord Maccon yelling very loudly. Initially, she assumes he must be upset with her, then she worries that perhaps he is screaming at himself since no one else seems to be present. Eventually, she realizes he is talking to Formerly Merriway, a timid ghost whose murmurs are too quiet for Alexia to hear. Alexia continues to feign sleep until she is “awakened” by her husband, who wants to say goodbye to her before he runs off to whatever emergency had him throwing a fit. Although she is annoyed by the fact that he does not fill her in on whatever is going on, Alexia is even more irritated when she discovers a bunch of werewolves camping on her front lawn. To make matters worse, the major in charge of the new arrivals mistakes her for the housekeeper and leers at her in a most ungentlemanly fashion. And then Alexia’s friend Ivy unexpectedly drops by with some big news that simply cannot wait, making her late for a meeting of the Shadow Council.
Once Alexia joins the other two members of Queen Victoria’s Shadow Council, a werewolf and a vampire, she discovers what must have disturbed her husband so greatly: the supernatural around London have been plagued with humanity. Several ghosts were exorcised and both other members of the council are currently mortal, a state for which they blame Alexia until she points out she can only cause mortality by touch. Theories abound on whether the cause is a weapon, a disease or something else entirely, and Alexia is determined to find out the truth even if it means traveling to the most uncivilized place she can imagine – Scotland.
Soulless was a lot of fun to read, but Changeless was even more enjoyable. From start to finish I did not want to stop reading, and it did not get bogged down by too many love scenes like its predecessor. Upon reaching the end, it became clear to me just how much I had become hooked because it did leave such a big impression, making me realize just how much I’ve come to care about what happens to Alexia. This novel proved to me that I have yet another series addiction as I cannot wait for the third book so I can find out what happens now.
Changeless is less of a romance than the first book although it does have a romantic side plot involving someone other than Alexia and it is also more steampunk. It still may not fit some people’s definition of steampunk since even though there is more technology–including dirigibles, a new method of communication and a parasol that rivals one of Batman’s utility belts–there is not a lot of analysis on how it affects society. The steampunk elements are part of the setting and sometimes they are even somewhat important (such as the usefulness of being able to communicate quickly over long distances), but it’s not a driving force in the story. Much like how not all science fiction is “hard,” this is more “soft” steampunk.
The novel is well-paced with a humorous, engaging writing style. It is told from the third person perspective of Alexia, whose narrative voice is both quirky and funny. The novels are not at all serious, and neither is the tone of Alexia’s perspective. Yet she is a very likable heroine – very practical and rather fearless at the same time due to lacking a soul and all.
There are many familiar characters from the first book, but there are some new ones as well – notably the inventor Madame Lefoux, who is quite possibly my favorite after Alexia herself now. Of course, Lord Akeldama, Ivy and Lord Maccon are all present, as well as several more minor characters from book one.
Changeless was a lot of fun to read and an even stronger novel than the first book in the series. Fans of Victorian London, comedies of manners and urban fantasy should certainly consider reading these books.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: It is a review copy from the publisher.
Reviews of other books in this series: