by Gail Carriger
400pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.18/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.32/5

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.

Read Excerpt

Other reviews:

Reviews of other books in this series:

Interview with Gail Carriger

The 2010 Hugo Award nominees were announced today.

Best Novel

  • Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
  • The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
  • Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
  • Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
  • Wake, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz; Analog)
  • The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

Best Novella

  • “Act One”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s 3/09)
  • The God Engines, John Scalzi (Subterranean)
  • “Palimpsest”, Charles Stross (Wireless)
  • Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon)
  • “Vishnu at the Cat Circus”, Ian McDonald (Cyberabad Days)
  • The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker (Subterranean)

Best Novelette

  • “Eros, Philia, Agape”, Rachel Swirsky ( 3/09)
  • The Island”, Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2)
  • “It Takes Two”, Nicola Griffith (Eclipse Three)
  • “One of Our Bastards is Missing”, Paul Cornell (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction: Volume Three)
  • “Overtime”, Charles Stross ( 12/09)
  • “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”, Eugie Foster (Interzone 2/09)

Best Short Story

  • “The Bride of Frankenstein”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s 12/09)
  • “Bridesicle”, Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)
  • “The Moment”, Lawrence M. Schoen (Footprints)
  • “Non-Zero Probabilities”, N.K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld 9/09)
  • “Spar”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld 10/09)

Best Related Book

  • Canary Fever: Reviews, John Clute (Beccon)
  • Hope-In-The-Mist: The Extraordinary Career and Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees, Michael Swanwick (Temporary Culture)
  • The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study of Children’s and Teens’ Science Fiction, Farah Mendlesohn (McFarland)
  • On Joanna Russ, Farah Mendlesohn (ed.) (Wesleyan)
  • The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of SF Feminisms, Helen Merrick (Aqueduct)
  • This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”), Jack Vance (Subterranean)

Best Graphic Story

  • Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Written by Neil Gaiman; Pencilled by Andy Kubert; Inked by Scott Williams (DC Comics)
  • Captain Britain And MI13. Volume 3: Vampire State Written by Paul Cornell; Pencilled by Leonard Kirk with Mike Collins, Adrian Alphona and Ardian Syaf (Marvel Comics)
  • Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages Written by Bill Willingham; Pencilled by Mark Buckingham; Art by Peter Gross & Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn; Colour by Lee Loughridge & Laura Allred; Letters by Todd Klein (Vertigo Comics)
  • Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  • Schlock Mercenary: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse Written and Illustrated by Howard Tayler

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Avatar Screenplay and Directed by James Cameron (Twentieth Century Fox)
  • District 9 Screenplay by Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell; Directed by Neill Blomkamp (TriStar Pictures)
  • Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)
  • Star Trek Screenplay by Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman; Directed by J.J. Abrams (Paramount)
  • Up Screenplay by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter; Story by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, & Thomas McCarthy; Directed by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Doctor Who: “The Next Doctor” Written by Russell T Davies; Directed by Andy Goddard (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who: “Planet of the Dead” Written by Russell T Davies & Gareth Roberts; Directed by James Strong (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars” Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)
  • Dollhouse: “Epitaph 1″ Story by Joss Whedon; Written by Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon; Directed by David Solomon (Mutant Enemy)
  • FlashForward: “No More Good Days” Written by Brannon Braga & David S. Goyer; Directed by David S. Goyer; based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer (ABC)

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Lou Anders
  • Ginjer Buchanan
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Juliet Ulman

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Ellen Datlow
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Gordon Van Gelder
  • Sheila Williams

Best Professional Artist

  • Bob Eggleton
  • Stephan Martiniere
  • John Picacio
  • Daniel Dos Santos
  • Shaun Tan

Best Semiprozine

  • Ansible edited by David Langford
  • Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan
  • Interzone edited by Andy Cox
  • Locus edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
  • Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal

Best Fan Writer

  • Claire Brialey
  • Christopher J Garcia
  • James Nicoll
  • Lloyd Penney
  • Frederik Pohl

Best Fanzine

  • Argentus edited by Steven H Silver
  • Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
  • CHALLENGER edited by Guy H. Lillian III
  • Drink Tank edited by Christopher J Garcia, with guest editor James Bacon
  • File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
  • StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Artist

  • Brad W. Foster
  • Dave Howell
  • Sue Mason
  • Steve Stiles
  • Taral Wayne

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Saladin Ahmed
  • Gail Carriger
  • Felix Gilman *
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Lezli Robyn *

*(Second year of eligibility)

Sadly, I haven’t read any of the works nominated for the Hugo although Catherynne Valente’s Palimpsest is on my to read pile since I loved her novel The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden. She did a reading and signing nearby last summer so I went to see it and bought a copy of Palimpsest to get signed while I was there. Based on the one book I have read by her, I think she’s a fantastic writer so I was happy to see her nominated.

I was thrilled to see both Gail Carriger and Seanan McGuire on the list for the John W. Campbell Award as I have read their books that count for the nomination. I read ARCs of both their first novels and enjoyed both, plus I thought each of them wrote an even better second novel. I am now hooked on both of their series and would be thrilled if either won (Seanan McGuire has also been a guest poster here with a story set in her Velveteen universe and I had a lot of fun interviewing Gail Carriger soon after Soulless was released).

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Another week with not enough reviews written (Changeless draft is done though!), but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case until this summer. Recently I found out we have to move at the end of May, but now we may have to by the end of this month. And then we’ll only be moving out for two months and then moving back. With all the chaos, I’ve been mostly reading books that are somewhat short because I just don’t have the time for anything too complex, but that means I read faster than I can write since I haven’t had much spare time on the weekends lately (and I’m usually far too wiped out to write anything coherent in the evenings after work).

This week brings three new additions to the TBR pile. One I bought myself and the other two are review copies.

Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre

The second book in the Corine Solomon series is officially out on April 6, but I couldn’t resist checking the bookstore to see if I could find it on the shelves a little early on Friday – and it was there! Also, I had a coupon and it was my birthday so I had some good excuses for buying something. 😉 All of Aguirre’s books I’ve read are a lot of fun – I’m addicted to the Jax series and I enjoyed Blue Diablo, the first book in this urban fantasy series. There is an excerpt from Hell Fire on the author’s website (scroll down a bit to read it).

As a handler, Corine Solomon can touch any object and know its history. It’s too bad she can’t seem to forget her own. With her ex-boyfriend Chance in tow-lending his own supernatural brand of luck-Corine journeys back home to Kilmer, Georgia, in order to discover the truth behind her mother’s death and the origins of “gift”.

But while trying to uncover the secrets in her past, Corine and Chance find that something is rotten in the state of Georgia. Inside Kilmer’s borders there are signs of a dark curse affecting the town and all its residents-and it can only be satisfied with death…

Divine by Mistake by P.C. Cast

This is the first book in the Goddess of Parthalon series, which is being released in the UK for the first time this year. This novel just came out in February, Divine by Choice came out in March and Divine by Blood will be out this month. I’ve heard some good things about the author so I am curious about this one.

Waking up in another world Shannon Parker discovers she has swapped places with Partholon’s high-priestess and is revered as a Goddess by all. While she can’t believe her luck – who doesn’t like to have wall to wall wardrobes of made-to-measure silk dresses and wine on tap, not to mention the personal Spa and handmaidens – being Partholon’s high-priestess is far from easy. On her first day in Partholon Shannon is expected to be married to High Shaman, ClanFintan, a centaur who has no idea of her real identity. Then there is the threat of Fomorian war on the horizon, and as the high-priestess of a warrior Goddess, Shannon must lead the people of Partholon into battle. Nothing a feisty high-school teacher can’t handle-right?

Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson

This is the first book in the Death Works series. I seem to like books/TV shows featuring death so I am rather intrigued by this one. It will be on sale on July 27.

Steven de Selby has a hangover. Bright lights, loud noise, and lots of exercise are the last thing he wants. But that’s exactly what he gets when someone starts shooting at him.

Steven is no stranger to death-Mr. D’s his boss after all-but when a dead girl saves him from sharing her fate, he finds himself on the wrong end of the barrel. His job is to guide the restless dead to the underworld but now his clients are his own colleagues, friends, and family.

Mr. D’s gone missing and with no one in charge, the dead start to rise, the living are hunted, and the whole city teeters on the brink of a regional apocalypse-unless Steven can shake his hangover, not fall for the dead girl, and find out what happened to his boss- that is, Death himself.


Since I don’t think I’ll be finishing any books in the next hour (especially considering I only just started a new one and have only read the 3 page long prologue), I may as well put up the monthly summary. Some day I hope to actually have links to reviews of at least most of the books by the end of the month, but with the way this year has been going so far, that may be a while… But at least about half of the Changeless review is done so I should be able to put that up soon! And sometime after that, I’ll get the other three that do not have links to reviews written up.

Read in March:

11. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
12. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
13. The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
14. Changeless by Gail Carriger
15. World’s End by Joan D. Vinge
16. Tsunami Blue by Gayle Ann Williams

That’s four new to me authors and one book I set a goal of reading in 2010 (Magic Bites). Only one science fiction book but I just started a space opera.

Favorite of the month: Changeless. I thought it was better than the first book in the series, and it left me with that feeling of series addiction – just can’t wait to read more. The runner-up would be World’s End. It’s not as excellent as The Snow Queen, but I did really enjoy it and love Joan Vinge’s writing.

What did everyone read in March? What were your favorites?

A new edition of Inside the Blogosphere went up today at Grasping for the Wind, in which several of us discussed our methods of library organization. It’s complete with pictures so there’s also plenty of opportunity for library envy.

Magic Bites
by Ilona Andrews
272pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.81/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.94/5

Magic Bites is the first book in the Kate Daniels series by husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews. The second and third books in this urban fantasy series are Magic Burns and Magic Strikes. Magic Bleeds, the next novel, will be released on May 25 of this year.

Kate Daniels is a sword-and-magic wielding mercenary living near Atlanta, Georgia. When a magic fluctuation hits and her careful warding spells are down, she finds a vampire in her house. The vampire is controlled by Ghastek, who has a brief conversation with Kate in which he asks her if she has seen her guardian lately. Then the vampire rather abruptly leaves, as Kate wonders why they were watching her for long enough to get in as soon as her wards were no longer functioning.

Kate immediately calls the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid and asks for Greg, only to discover he was recently killed on the job. Since there are not many creatures powerful enough to kill the knight-diviner, Kate is quite shocked by this. Even though she normally avoids the Order, Kate goes there and obtains permission to investigate what happened to Greg personally – landing her right in the middle of a conflict between the People, who control the vampires, and the Pack, the shapechangers.

Magic Bites throws you right into the story and world, and it can be a bit confusing at first since it is not an urban fantasy setting with paranormal creatures in a modern world that otherwise closely mirrors our own. There are fluctuations in which magic works and technology no longer works and vice versa. Right in the first paragraph, one of these changes occurs – Kate’s magical defenses go down and her TV immediately starts up. Since it just happened without explanation, though, it wasn’t until later that I got an idea of what that really meant. While I definitely prefer being shown what is happening like this to long infodumps, there are times I would have liked a little more detail and a better idea of what was going on. (Although it’s also completely possible that I missed a lot of the obvious due to being sick when reading this.)

Even though it does have some of the usual urban fantasy creatures, they are a bit different from the norm. While there are vampires, they are creepy, quite ugly and not some sort of sexy, charming almost-human being that draw women to them like magnets. They roam the streets controlled by necromancers, who use them to do their bidding. Also, instead of being limited to a werewolf pack, the Pack consists of many different types of shapeshifters – werewolves, were-rats, and assorted were-cats including a were-lion at the head of the Pack.

There’s definitely a lot of interesting world-building here, but there’s also a lot left unexplained that I hope is explored more in future books. It would be nice to know how the world got this way and more about how magic works as well as the magic/tech waves. That’s part of the fun of reading a series, though – all the unanswered questions and the anticipation of which ones will be answered in the next book.

The first half of this book was a little hard to get into. The world was an interesting place, but it took a while for the plot to pick up as Kate went from place to place talking to various people trying to solve the mystery of who murdered her guardian. Once the story was set up some and the main characters were introduced, it started getting a lot easier to get into and I found myself really enjoying the second half, especially as I found myself caring more about Kate and what happened to her. Curran’s increasing role didn’t hurt, either, as I liked the Beast Lord from the moment he showed up and told Kate to call him “Lord” when she said she needed something shorter to call him than ‘The Leader of the Southern Shapechanger Faction.’ (And Kate completely deserved that after she decided to try to get the most powerful shapechanger in the region – who turns into a gigantic lion – to come out by calling ‘Here kitty, kitty, kitty.’)

In spite of being the first person narrator, Kate has a lot of secrets she’s holding back. For some reason, she is afraid of leaving any of her blood around (which is a bit tough being a mercenary who ends up wounded and bleeding a fair amount of the time), but never reveals why she’s so afraid to do so. She’s obviously powerful, but Kate just may be even more so than she’s letting on. Personality-wise, I wouldn’t say she’s that out-of-the-ordinary – she’s tough and a bit of a smart ass. It does seem as though we’re told she’s competent but not really shown it since she does say things that should get her into trouble with those one might not want to mess with. Often she acts like that to cover up how scared she really is, but it does seem like someone would have taught her better than that by now. Toward the end I did find myself sympathizing with her far more as she seemed to develop more as a character and I felt I better understood where she was coming from, though.

Other than some slowness, my main complaint was some continuity issues. There was one part where someone made an accusation and then Kate was blamed as the one who made it instead. That confused me and I had to go back and reread that part to make sure I remembered it correctly, and sure enough, it was not a suggestion made by Kate. Overall, I also felt the plot was much weaker than the world and some of the characters. It seemed rather contrived at times and not like it was naturally progressing toward a conclusion.

Magic Bites is strongest for its unique setting, which is an alternate world but more original than “the modern world with vampires and werewolves.” It had a somewhat rocky beginning, but the second half was a big improvement over the first one and left me eager to find out more – especially since the next two books are supposed to be much better than the first one.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Chapter One

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