When asked why someone would read her books, Gail Carriger wrote “It’s got gay vampires, dirigibles, and madly wielded parasols in it. What more could you want from a book?”
I can’t say it any better than that. But here I go anyway.
The Parasol Protectorate is a series of five novels, currently up to number three in publication. The first three are Soulless, Changeless and Heartless, and all three centre around Alexia Tarabotti, parasol wielder, tea drinker and determined spinster. Set in an alternate Victorian London, where Vampires and Werewolves live in uneasy truce with humans, Ms Tarabotti is the antidote to both species, being a woman without a soul and able to transform both species to their mortal state. Ms Tarabotti is accompanied in her adventures by Miss Ivy Hisselpenny, known for her extraordinarily bad taste in hats, and Lord Akeldema, her gay best-friend with fangs.
The books have been compared to both Wodehouse and Jane Austen, with a touch of modern sensibility thrown in for good measure. What they are is a lot of fun. I was hooked from page one, where Ms Tarabotti blatantly attacks a vampire with her parasol, simply because he is being rude enough to try and eat her. Her love/hate relationship with Conall Maccon, scruffy werewolf and Lord, is replete with the witty banter of a 1940s screwball comedy. As someone who is well versed in Victorian literature, Carriger does an excellent job of interweaving classic London with supernatural themes.
Yes, there is a little bit of romance, a small bit of “nookie” (in Gail’s terms), but not enough to put anyone off the book. In fact, the later books are less romance driven and more about discovering the truth about Ms Tarabotti’s supernatural state. In true steampunk style there is a smattering of dirigibles, ocular implements and steam driven machines.
What I like very much about these books is that I don’t need to work too hard as a reader; the pace is cracking and the dialogue sharp. I enjoy reading these after a hard day at work, when I need to escape to another place and time.
If you’d like to know more, there is an extensive FAQ on her website, where she answers questions about influence, the plots, the characters and anything in between. The books can generally be found in the fantasy/science fiction section of the bookstore. There’s an ample supply at Galaxy in Sydney, alternatively you can buy them from my favourite online bookstore Better World Books.