Blameless is the third novel in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer this year. The first two books in the series are Soulless and Changeless in that order, and the next book, Heartless, will be released in July 2011. Timeless, the final book, is scheduled for publication in 2012. It has been a great year for this series – not only was Carriger nominated for a major award but both books released in 2010 (Changeless and Blameless) were on the New York Times bestseller list.

Note: There is simply no way to talk about the plot in this book without spoiling the ending of the previous book. The “My Thoughts” part of the review will be spoiler-free, though, so just continue past the horizontal line to read that part of this review if you want.

As if being cast out by her husband were not bad enough, Alexia now has no choice but to live with her frivolous mother and sisters – that is, until they read the morning paper and cast her out as well. After all, the woman involved in The Scandal of the Century will completely ruin her unwed sisters’ prospects for marriage. Alexia is all too happy to leave, especially considering she just got an invitation to stay with the far more amiable Lord Akeldama.

However, when she arrives at Lord Akeldama’s estate she finds it empty except for one man charged with giving her the cryptic message: “Check the cat.” When leaving, her carriage is pursued by mechanical ladybugs intent on her destruction. Alexia decides to brave the lack of tea and travel to Italy to seek the wisdom of the Templars, who may be the only hope for learning more about Alexia’s condition – and why this state is bothersome enough that someone wants to kill her.

The Parasol Protectorate is becoming one of my favorite new series. It’s comedic historical fantasy set in a steampunk version of London populated with both humans and the supernatural (vampires, werewolves and ghosts). The first book in the series, Soulless, was also somewhat of a romance, but the next two books are not. In my opinion, this latest installment is about as enjoyable as the previous book and both are more polished than the first one.

Blameless is full of clever, whimsical humor and it struck me a couple of times while reading it that nearly every sentence is hilarious. There are so many well-worded phrases, but while there are plenty of funny situations the book doesn’t compromise characterization just for the sake of being amusing. Alexia has become a character I really care about; she’s so logical and courageous it would be difficult not to like her. Her mother and sisters remind me so much of Lizzie’s family in Pride and Prejudice so it’s easy to feel sympathy for her when they’re around, although her mother cracked me up when she was trying to explain the state of existence for werewolves:

“Your husband is basically dead, or was basically dead and is mostly dead now.” Mrs. Loontwill seemed to be confusing herself. [pp. 12 – 13]

It was also a pleasure to see the inventor Madame Lefoux play a large role in this novel, and Professor Lyall got some more page time as well as he was desperately trying to manage the Woolsey pack. We also got to see a different side of Ivy than just the girl with the funny hats. And I now want to know so much more about Alexia’s father after reading all the little references to him that I hope Gail Carriger decides to write stories about him.

One of the highlights of this newest installment was getting to see more of how the other nations treated the supernatural. While England figured they might as well use them, they seem to be a rarity as other parts of Europe despise them. In this book, Alexia travels to both France and Italy so there is a chance to see the difference between these countries and England – and learn facts such as how Italian perception of the supernatural affected the popularity of pesto.

There have been a lot of complaints about the ending to this book, but personally it didn’t bother me. Unfortunately, I can’t really go into depth about why without spoiling it, but I felt it was a logical conclusion based on Alexia’s nature and the progression of her reactions throughout the story.

Blameless is every bit as wonderful as the previous book in the series. It’s unique and delightfully quirky, but at the same time it’s more than just an entertaining novel good for a few laughs but not much more. In addition, it has both a well-developed setting and a diverse cast of characters that are better fleshed out in each book. More is revealed about Alexia’s unique heritage, and I’m looking forward to learning more about what this new information means in Heartless.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.

Interview with Gail Carriger

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Reviews of other books in this series: