Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger.

Heartless is the fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. As stated in my previous overview of the series the story is a blend of Steampunk, Supernatural, romance and Victorian manners.
The fourth book finds are heroine Alexia Maccon near the end of her pregnancy. As a woman of action Alexia finds herself unsuited to being pregnant, going so far as to refer to the baby as the “infant inconvenience.”  Adding to the complications is the constant attempts by the vampires of London to have her killed out of fear that the child of a werewolf and a soulless woman will be a major threat to them.
To end this there is a compromise made. Alexia’s vampire friend Lord Akeldama will adopt the child thus dampening the other vampires’ fears. This leads Alexia and her Husband, werewolf alpha Lord Conall Maccon to move in next door to Akeldama.
And this is when the mad ghost appears claiming there is a plot against the queen.
If you are not already a fan of the Parasol Protectorate this is not a good jumping on point. The book assumes that you are familiar with events from the previous books. However this is true of most continuing series these days.
If you are a fan of the series it is a great continuation of the story. The author does not let the status quo of the series impede her story and the development of the characters. Most of the reoccurring characters get their individual story arcs developed further.
Alexia is shown dealing with her pregnancy while still fulfilling her duty as a member of the queen’s shadow council. We also see some of the inherent drawbacks to her soulless nature. Lacking in instincts and intuition she has to depend on her intelligence and pragmatism. We are shown this is not always a good thing.
Biffy, Lord Akeldama’s former drone and lover, was made a werewolf in the last book to save his life. Having wished to become a vampire we see his struggle with his new nature.
We learn much more about the back story of Werewolf beta Professor Lyall and how far he will go to protect the pact.
And of course there is intrigue with the mysterious French inventor and hat shop owner Madame Lefoux.
If there is a fault with the book it is that there are a lot of plates spinning at once. Of course being an ongoing series that does appear to be the norm these days.
As a fan of the series I was very pleased with it as a continuation of the story. And it ends in a way that makes me want to read Timeless when it comes out.

Harry Potter and the End of the Franchise .

After 14 years the juggernaut that is the Harry Potter franchise has come to a close as of this last weekend. I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 last night. It was a very good movie although the final scene did not work as well on screen as it did on paper.
Rather than review the movie I want to look at the phenomena that is Harry Potter.
The first book was published in June of 1997. As hard as it is to remember sometimes the Potter series is classified as middlegrade books. This means it’s more mature than a children’s book but not quite up to teen level yet. It was written by J.K. Rowling a single mother who was living on benefits.  It ended up being a seven book series with each of the last four books breaking the previous record for fastest selling book ever.  And Rowling went from living on benefits to the first person to ever listed by Forbes as having become a billionaire solely through writing books.
And she earned every cent for one reason. She got children interested in reading. Hell she got lots of people reading.
The strength of the series was its ability to mature along with its main characters. The first books were middlegrade with was the age range of Harry and his friends. As they matured to teenagers the series itself matured to teen level.
(Side note, friends in the publishing industry tell me that the big difference between teen and middlegrade is that middlegrade books lack angst.)
The books are full of wonderful and wondrous imagery.  The values held by its heroes are virtuous and ultimately good triumphs over evil, but not without great cost. Its great literature and proved once and for all that you can write for children without writing down to them.
The film series stands as the most successful of all time. They managed the remarkable feat of casting a group of child actors ten years ago and managing to keep them all as the series progressed.  It will be interesting to see how they progress now that the series is over.
And my opening statement may not be strictly correct. We have seen the end of the books and movies, but the franchise is actually got a lot of steam left. I recent trip to mall included poking my head into Hot Topic. There was wall to wall Potter. Yes it was ramped up for the movie but still there is a lot of merchandise.
And then there is the theme park. Last year my wife and I went to Universal Studios Florida for their Halloween event (Which will be covered later on). While there we went to Universal Islands of Adventure, which includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was an amazing exercise in environment immersion.  It’s only about a year old and it is packing them in. We went on a Thursday and it was packed. We went back on Saturday and it was so packed we could barely move. Picture frames are really video for the moving pictures, you can buy butterbeer and Pumpkin juice, There is the wand shop, the gag store, and the main ride takes place in Hogwarts.
(Please ignore my thumb.)
Finally Rowling is opening a website called Pottermore that appears to be basically a Harry Potter social networking site.
The series is over, but the Boy who lived looks like he has a lot of life left in him.

The Parasol Protectorate: An overview

Oh good, it’s finally July.
I’ve always considered myself an avid reader. There was a time when it was not uncommon for me to be reading two novels at once. As I’m sure you can guess by the name of this blog, once in a book store I head straight to the science fiction and fantasy section.
In the last couple of months I haven’t done a lot of reading. When I have it’s been reading Arthur Conan Doyle, I’m on a kick to fill in the Sherlock Holmes stories I did not read in High School. One of the big reasons I haven’t made time (outside of life issues) is that the various series I follow haven’t had new books out. My fiancée Larisa has been trying to get me to start the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but I wanted to hold off until season one of Game of Thrones ended. I will get to it eventually.
But not yet, it’s July, and that means two books I have been waiting for are being released.
The first is Heartless by Gail Carriger, book four in The Parasol Protectorate series which has just released. The other is Ghost Story by Jim Butcher, book fourteen in The Dresden Files series which will release on the 26th.
For those not familiar The Parasol Protectorate here is a brief overview. (I’ll do a Dresden one closer to its release.)
The Parasol Protectorate is a supernatural steampunk alternate history series set in Victorian England. The four books in the series so far are Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and the new book Heartless 
The premise is that vampires, werewolves, and ghosts are known to the general public and are accepted and integrated into society. Science has also advanced faster which adds mad scientists to the mix.
Our main character is Alexia Tarabotti, a lady from an upper class family who was born without a soul. This condition gives her the ability to cancel out the supernatural through physical contact. This means that if she touches a Vampire or Werewolf they become human for the duration of the contact. This naturally makes her of interest to the supernatural members of society, particularly Lord Maccon alpha werewolf of the London pack and head of the agency that deals with supernatural concerns for the crown. She is also friends with Lord Akeldama a flamboyant vampire aristocrat who’s knowledge of the goings on in society rival and even exceeds government intelligence.
What makes these novels stand out from other supernatural or steampunk novels is Carriger’s writing style. She weaves some her plots with a mix of mysteries to be solved, action, politics, and social manners. At the heart is a barbed wit evokes the spirit of Oscar Wilde (who I am convinced is the basis for Lord Akeldama)
And the cast, oh the cast.
Alexia is a great character to follow. Her lack of a soul means she has little to no creativity and her development of morals and sensitivity had to be through observation. To compensate she has had to develop a code of conduct based on pragmatism and social acceptability. A great deal is made of her inheriting her late Italian father’s looks in contrast to her lily white half-sisters.
Her best friend Ivy is a silly young thing with a fondness for ugly hats that defies all logic. Ivy’s greatest advantage is that being such a flighty girl people often mistake her for being stupid as well.
Lord Maccon is fun as the love interest because he is in many ways Alexia’s opposite, but ultimately they meet in having little tolerance for the frivolities of society. He is a brash man who never lets you forget that the wolf is part of him.
He is backed up by Professor Lyle, the pack beta who is practical, frighteningly competent and been the beta for the last several alphas.
As I said earlier, think Oscar Wilde and you have an idea of Lord Akeldama. He surrounds himself with a collection of foppish young gentlemen led by his right hand man, Biffy.
I don’t feel I can really do the whole series justice in a single blog post. For more check out Gail Carriger’s website here.
I really do suggest giving this series a try. I’ll post a review of Heartless as soon as I finish it.