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Book Review: Heartless

July 18, 2011

Sun, Sand, and SteampunkSpoiler alert: If you haven’t read the previous three novels, you should probably stop right now, go buy the whole set, and read them. This particular review contains a spoiler for the second and third novels, which you will most certainly want to read prior to continuing.

I’ve previously waxed poetic on Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. With Carrigar’s latest novel hitting shelves just days before my trip to Galveston beach, I knew I had found my upcoming vacation reading. I so enjoyed having the previous two novels for my honeymoon cruise, I figured that Heartless would be equally as enjoyable for some sun, sand, and steampunk.

Heartless picks up several months after the previous novel left off, with Alexia Maccon trundling about London with her inconvenient burden. As in previous novels, Lady Maccon is not one to let silly inconveniences like bustles, corsets, or pregnancy get in her way when she is on the trail of a mystery. Heartless features the complexities of werewolf and vampire politics, a complex system of supernatural bureaucracy, and most importantly, a slew of fascinating steam powered gadgetry.

The plot of Heartless rushes by several points which I felt would have given the final battle more emotional impact. Alexia spends so much time rushing around after a decades old mystery that I feel as if it detracted from the current one. I recognize that it was intended to be the red herring of the novel, but I do wish Carriger had given more attention to the major mystery, and taken an additional novel to draw out the details of the older mystery. Hopefully, Carriger will take a little time in the next novel to explore it in a little more detail.

Sadly, what Heartless is noticeably lacking, is the ever enjoyable Miss Hisselpenny. Early on, the Lady of the Hats is sent off on a recognizance mission, which takes her and her fabulously hilarious declarations away from most of the action. The scenes she does have are densely packed with Ivy-isms and resolve to my personal satisfaction one of the problems I had with Ivy’s denseness up to this point. Carriger later manages to sneak in a reference to one of my favorite moments in the second novel, regarding the scandalous display of Scottish knees. This interaction also establishes the source of the title for the series, The Parasol Protectorate, with all of the usual silliness that secret societies entail.

The plot of Heartless is not quite as good as the previous three novels, but that lack is made up by Carriger’s witty dialog and whimsical take on Victorian manners. Coming in after three such smashingly enjoyable novels, I think Heartless can be forgiven for being only very enjoyable. And best of all, it went fabulously with my new straw hat.

EDIT: Much love to Mira for pointing out that books 1-3 are available in a bundle on your Nook. They’re also available in a bundle on Kindle. And for all the Droid heads like myself, you can get a free Kindle or Nook ap in the Android Market.

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