Series I love

Series I love: Parasolverse

Another one sparked by writing the Escapist reading post, except that this isn’t really a single series but a book universe, spread across three series. I’ve written about various bits of the series a few times but as I finished the last book in the Custard Protocol series the other week, now seems like as good a time as any to do a proper post about the whole world. I should say that this post has been quite tricky to write without giving out some fairly major spoilers for all of the series, so if my plot descriptions seem a little less than fulsome, that would be why.

Anyway, the Parasolverse is a steam-punk and supernatural alternative Victorian-era world across three main series and three novella strands. In chronological order the series are Finishing School , Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol, but in publication order the Parasol Protectorate books came first. If you look at the chronology on Gail Carriger’s website, she suggests reading them in chronological order, but says her fans suggest reading in the order that they were written. I read them in basically the order that they were written with a minor blip and for reasons that I will explain later, I am inclined to endorse the latter approach – especially if you are not normally someone who reads Young Adult or school story series.

Finishing School

The four books of the Finishing School series cover the school career of Sophronia Temminnick in the 1850s. It’s a Young Adult series – which the other parts of the universe are… not. At the start of the first book, Etiquette and Espionage, she is the bane of her mother’s existence and is sent off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to learn how to be a proper lady. Except that she isn’t there long before she realises that the school isn’t so much about manners and polite society as it is about spying and other slightly deadlier pursuits. Over the course of the series Sophronia learns all the skills to embark on a life of espionage and gets tangled up with vampires, werewolves and Evil Geniuses. The Finishing school world has mechanicals and all sorts of clockwork devices that aren’t present in the Parasol Protectorate and part of the fun of the series to me when I first read them was trying to work out what on earth was going to happen to turn a world that had clockwork butlers on tracks into one that very definitely didn’t. Sophronia is the main character, but there are other characters here who you will encounter in the rest of the series or in their own novellas. I read the first two books in this series via NetGalley around the time the third one came out and liked them so much I went off and bought myself Soulless and my obsession took off from there. My review of Ettiquette and Espionage says that it took me a little while to get into because it dumps you straight into the steampunk world without a lot of explanation, and that’s the reason why I suggest that readers start with the Parasol Protectorate series first – unless they are young adults. And I think they do need to be Young Adults for this, because if they are anything like I was when I was little they’ll want to go on and read the other books set in the universe, which are somewhat more adult than a Middle Grade Reader would cope with – even if they’ve made it to the end of the Harry Potter series.

Parasol Protectorate

Starting with Soulless, the Parasol Protectorate are the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti, the titular Soulless preternatural. For in the world of Vampires and Werewolves – who have an excess of soul which allows them to become immortal – there are also people who have no soul, and whose touch can render the supernatural set mortal again. Alexia is a rare female preternatural. These are set in the 1870s in a world that is recognisable but different from the world of Finishing School. In Soulless Alexia sets out to investigate a number of deaths among the supernatural set, much to the disgust of Conall, Lord Maccon, the werewolf sent to investigate by Queen Victoria. The subsequent books see Alexia dealing with werewolf pack dynamics, the homicidal attentions of London’s vampires, the Knights Templar and the very peculiar situation in Egypt. Alexia is a feisty, forthright heroine who says what she thinks and often leaves a trail of destruction in her wake – in the nicest possible way of course.  I think this is the best starting place for the series as it is the clearest introduction into how the Parasolverse works, probably because it was written first so all the world-building is there. I love Alexia and Conalln so much, and as I mentioned in my review of Imprudence, I delayed reading that book because I was so worried about what the blurb of that book meant for them. And you definitely need to read this before you read The Custard Protocol otherwise you’ll be missing out on so very many references.

The Custard Protocol

Set in the 1890s, the Custard Protocol is the adventures of the crew of the Spotted Custard, an airship captained by Prudence Akeldama – known as Rue. I don’t think it’s too much to say that she’s the daughter of Alexia and Conall, because it’s right there in the blurb for it, but even that is a little bit of a spoiler for the previous series. But over the four books, Rue and her motley crew traverse the world trying to fix the British Empire. The Custard Protocol is examining the evolution of the supernatural throughout the Parasolverse, picking up on some hints and suggestions spotted in Timeless at the end of the Parasol Protectorate. And if you’ve read the rest of the series, there are call backs to the other books everywhere. Various members of the crew are linked to characters from both the other series, and by the time you reach the end of the final book, Reticence, the callbacks and references will make your head spin. If the events of Imprudence had me sniffling, Reticence had me in happy tears a few times as everything unravelled. And having finished the series – and it does feel quite final even if Gail Carriger has said she’s not done with the world, I want to go back and read all three series in order again so that I can enjoy the cleverness and interconnectedness of it all all over again.

The Novella series 

There are three of them (so far – Supernatural Society, Delightfully Deadly and Claw and Courtship – and this is where Carriger has continued to add to the world. Since the publication of Reticence, there has been another novella added to the collection, and I’m hoping it won’t be the last one, as Carriger has mentioned plans for another in her newsletter. The novellas tell the stories of some of the secondary characters that you want to know what happens to them next, but whose stories don’t fit into the main novels. So far they have covered several of Sophronia’s school friends (Delightfully Deadly), members of the werewolf pack (Claw and Courtship) and popular queer characters from across the series (Supernatural Society). I’ve enjoyed them all – because I love the world and always want to know what happened next or how my favourites got their happily ever afters – but they are not the place to start the series – they are not the way into the world, they’re an extension of it for people who already know and love it.

If you want to read some of my other posts about the Parasolverse, there are Book of the Week posts for Timeless, Prudence, Imprudence and Manners and Mutiny, as well as mentions for the series in 2014 Discoveries, YA Roundup and 2015 favourites as well. In terms of getting your hands on them, they’re all available on ebook and my library’s e collection holds all of the Parasol Protectorate, three of the Custard Protocol and a couple of the novellas as ebooks and more of them as audiobooks. I don’t know what joy you’ll have getting the novels from bookshops, and they’re all shut at the moment anyway so the best I can do is say that Foyles has pretty much all of them available to order. There are Manga editions of the first three Parasol Books (which are very pretty) but they seem harder to get. And the audiobooks are available from audible – some of them exclusively there. And as I own a fair few of them too I can vouch for them being good as audiobooks too, even if the first one does have a mispronunciation that really grates…

Anyway, Happy Reading!

As a bonus, here is the complete Carriger shelf – you may have noticed not all of them match *exactly* and it drives me mad. One day I will sort it. If it is sortable. Ditto the differences in the covers of the Finishing school books in the collage – my ebook set was already a mix of proofs and UK versions, but the UK version of the first one has her head cut off and it looked weirder to be missing a head than to have the bottoms not right! Anyway, it seemed in keeping because look at this:

Adventure, Authors I love, Book of the Week, historical, Series I love

Book of the Week: Imprudence

This may be one of the least surprising BotW picks ever, considering that the first book in the Custard Protocol series was a BotW,  as were several of Gail Carriger’s other books (Sumage Solution, Manners and Mutiny and Timeless) and she was one of my discoveries of the year back when this blog was but a child.  In fact, the only question you have may be: What took me so long to read Imprudence, given that it came out in July last year.  Fear not.  There are answers ahead.

The paperback of Imprudence on a shelf next to Prudence

Firstly though, the plot:  Rue and her crew are back in London after the events of Prudence, which have landed her in a whole heap of hot water with the powers that be.  On top of this, her best friend keeps getting engaged to unsuitable military types and there’s something going on at home.  Rue’s vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is not himself, and her mother is being even more difficult than usual.  What is going on?  Finding out will take the Spotted Custard and her crew to Egypt and beyond

Now, part of the reason this has taken so long for me to read is that it was all boxed up with the to-read pile at the back end of last year, but the reason it was still waiting to be read at that point was a line in the blurb: “her werewolf father is crazy”.  Having read Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, I had a fair idea what was going on there, and I was worried about how it was going to resolve itself.  I love and adore Rue’s Paw – Conall Maccon and although he has his stupid moments (to whit, his idiotic behaviour in Blameless) I was a bit worried about what might happen to him.  And I had a few rocky moments early on in the book, which involved near tears and sniffling.  But I got through it and I was ok.  And that’s as much as I can say without it all being a big old spoiler.  And while we’re talking about the Parasol Protectorate, I found myself wishing that I’d re-read Timeless before I read this, because a lot of the action is in Egypt and there’s a lot of references to the events of that book.  It did all come back to me, but I think I would have been cooing with delight sooner if I’d done a reread first.  And so of course now I need to go and do that reread to check if there were any references that I missed in Imprudence.  There are old friends here – and some who are less friendly.

If I have a quibble, it’s that everything is wrapped up very quickly in the end – the main romantic through line and the adventure-quest one.  I could have read another 50 pages of that resolving itself.  But maybe that’s just me.  And if you’re wondering what prompted me to read this now, it’s the fact that the latest novella that Carriger has written is set after this book, and I *really* want to read that and so needed to do things in order. Because I’m like that.  And we all know that I’ll be pre-ordering the next in this series, Competence, just as soon as there’s a paperback preorder link.  Because I’m like that too.

As always in posts like this, I’m going to remind you all that this is the second in this series, but really actually the seventh if you’re counting Parasol Protectorate (which as you may have guessed have a fair bit to do with this) and eleventh if you’re going chronologically and including the spin-off prequel Finishing School YA series.  So don’t start with this one.  If you’re impatience, go and read Prudence first, but really, what you want to do is start with Soulless and work your way through Alexia’s story before you come to Rue.  And then do the Finishing school, because that is so much more fun once you start to work out who everyone is and how it all fits together.  Just my two-penneth.  They’re all available in Kindle and Kobo and Audible* and you should be able to order the paperbacks from any good bookshop.  Like the Big Green Bookshop.

Happy Reading!

And for longtime readers: No, I still haven’t sorted out the size mismatch issue with my Parasol Protectorate books, I still don’t know the best way to shelve them, but at least I haven’t caved in and bought a second copy of Heartless! There’s still time…

*Although NB, the first audiobook pronounces Lord Akeldama’s name wrong.  It’s Ak-el-dama not A-keel-duhma or however she says it.  It’s fixed by book 2 and I can just about cope with it in book one, even if my brain does repeat it pronounced correctly after every time it’s used.

Book of the Week, Fantasy, new releases, reviews, Uncategorized

Book of the Week: Prudence

This week’s BotW is Gail Carriger’s latest – Prudence – and you can’t say that I didn’t warn you that this might happen.  Because I did, even if it’s a few weeks later than I thought it might turn up here.  And that’s because I took an executive decision to save it for my holiday book – for our trip (to Vienna in the end) to mark a Significant Birthday for The Boy.  A holiday book should be a treat, preferably something that you know you’re not going to hate, and as it was already on the to-read pile, saving this meant I didn’t incur the wrath of The Boy for buying books again…

Gail Carriger's Prudence
I really like the purple and pink theme. And I’m not usually a pink person…

Anyway, Prudence is the first book in Carriger’s new series – the Custard Protocol.  Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School books, there are some familiar faces, not least Prudence herself – last seen as a toddler in the Parasol Protectorate series. When Rue is given a dirigible, she names it The Spotted Custard and heads for India on a secret mission.  But the situation there is not as simple as she had been lead to believe (and that wasn’t that simple to start with) and before long she’s dealing with dissidents, kidnappings and a pack of Scottish werewolves and it will take all her metanatural skills to deal with it.

Now, I’ve read all (I think) of Carriger’s other series, but I don’t think it would spoil your enjoyment of the book if you haven’t read them* as Carriger has been very careful not to give away too many spoilers for the plots of her previous books.**  However, for those of us who have read the previous books, you get the delicious enjoyment of being better informed about the past than our heroine, and equally delightful anticipation of confrontations and revelations yet to come.

When I read Timeless, I spotted a few dangling threads left that I hoped were teasers of stuff yet to come – and I was on the right track.   Again, my spoiler policy makes it difficult to be more specific than that, but I really like the direction that this series looks to be heading in.  The only problem with having read Prudence in fact is that I now have to wait (probably) a year to find out what happens next in Imprudence – and it’s still more than six months until the final Finishing School book – Manners and Mutiny – where I finally get to find out how Sophronia’s world became Alexias.

You can buy Prudence from all the usual sources – like Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles and Kindle.  I’ve also spotted it in  my local library already – which I haven’t seen before – and is brilliant, because hopefully it’ll introduce more people to Gail Carriger and then they can fall in love with her world like I have.

* Although the Parasol Protectorate is the more relevant to this book if you want somewhere to start

** Although the identity of Rue’s parents is a bit of a spoiler for Souless, there’s no way to avoid that!

Authors I love, Book of the Week, Fantasy, Series I love

Book of the Week: Timeless

I had real trouble choosing the BotW this week – because I don’t like repeating – and Gail Carriger has a new book out  on Kindle TODAY and in paperback on Thursday (and my pre-order hasn’t dispatched yet – Amazon I’m watching you – you didn’t use to delay posting pre-orders to those of us who refuse to pay postage…) and if Prudence is half as good as her other stuff, it’s going to be a candidate for BotW as well.

But I’ve enjoyed Timeless and the whole Parasol Protectorate series so much, it would have been disingenuous not to pick it as a BotW – especially as it was the my favourite thing I read last week.  It’s my own fault for saving Timeless because I didn’t want Alexia’s story to be over.

Timeless by Gail Carriger
I don’t love this cover shot – although the costume is one from the book, I think the face is… odd!

Timeless is the fifth and final volume in the story of Alexia Tarabotti – a preturnatural in steam punk Victorian London.   And I can’t really say much more than that about the plot of Timeless because anything else would be Spoiling The Previous Four Books.   Ms Carriger was on my list of Discoveries of 2014 – and I said then that she was well on course to be on my automatic pre-order list if Timeless didn’t do something dreadful and disillusioning.  And it didn’t.  It’s not my favourite of the series, but it is still pretty darn fantastic and ties up a lot of the dangling threads from the previous books and then sets up a few new questions too.

Alexia is a fabulous creation – and the world that she lives in is equally brilliant.  Carriger has worked out how her world works and wears that very lightly – in fact she’s a big old tease.  She really doesn’t want to tell you her secrets – unlike some authors who can’t wait to dump all the rules of the world on you.  Even in this last book in the series we’re still discovering new things about Alexia’s abilities – and you get the feeling that Carriger has had this planned all along – none of it comes across as invented for this book.  Which either means she’s brilliant at long term plotting – or she’s really good at faking it.

I’ve read all the Finishing School books* that have been released so far – and I can’t wait to see how that pans out – because the world of 20 years before Alexia is very different.  And I’m so excited to read Prudence and see what happened next.

The Parasol Protectorate books
My soul is so outrage that the set doesn’t match I can’t shelve them like this

Gosh this review is gushy.  Sorry.  Now this is where I would usually put links to the book of the week so you can run away and buy it.  But if you haven’t read the other four books in the series first, you really won’t appreciate it – so go and buy Soulless from Amazon or Foyles or Waterstones or on Kindle and get started on Alexia’s story.  I’m off to re-read them.  And don’t tell me off if there’s some more Carriger on here soon…

* In fact Etiquette and Espionage was my first Carriger book – thank you NetGalley for throwing that one in my path – and after I read that and Curtsies and Conspiracies  and then started on The Parasol Protectorate.  NB in light of the Wrong Size issue in my Parasol set, I am reading Finishing School on Kindle – and waiting til the end of the series to buy myself a matching set.  What kind of crazy person am I?!

My Shelving solution
My Shelving Solution – but I cannot allow a repeat of this situation with the Finishing School books!