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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heartless by Gail Carriger

I'm just not sure I could give up my child for adoption to a vampire.

Even if I were only mostly pretending.

Even if our lives were in danger.

I'm working under the assumption, of course, that I, myself, am not a vampire and that this in-name-mostly adoption isn't to someone like my sister. Sarah is, after all, an extraordinary mother, but also, I assume, not a vampire.

To recap, unless I were a vampire giving my child to an extraordinary vampire relative, I just don't think I would sign away my child to a blood-sucker. I find the thought unsettling, and with this unsettling thought, Heartless by Gail Carriger, begins.

is the fourth of four books in the Parasol Protectorate series. (For those of you scoring at home, I'm back to form--pretending to review a book but really reviewing a series.) The series is based upon the premise that Queen Victoria has incorporated the supernaturals (vampires, werewolves and ghosts) into the British Empire. Werewolves, you see, make brilliant soldiers and vampires excellent diplomats. The strength of the Victorian British Empire is built upon the immortal and excessively strong shoulders of those with excess soul: the vampires, werewolves and ghosts.

Alexia, the main character, does not have the excess soul necessary to turn her into a supernatural. Instead, she is actually soulless, and when she comes into skin-to-skin contact with a supernatural, she temporarily renders the "supe" mortal. It's such skin-to-skin contact that puts Alexia into the position where she must consider allowing a vampire to adopt her unborn child. Alexia is married to a werewolf, and the vampires are quite sure that any offspring of the soulless and a werewolf will be bad news for the vampires. The vampires are willing to go to extremes, so Alexia must consider her own extreme--allowing a vampire she trusts to legally, if not practically, adopt her baby--while also trying to discover the truth about an assassination attempt on the Queen.

Alexia is a strong character, and I found her reaction to the suggestion that she hand over legal rights to her child entirely too meek to be true. Also, I have begun to suspect that the author struggles to write scenes where Alexia and her husband work together. While there are many more scenes with the couple in Heartless than in Blameless (the third book), most of the action takes place when Lord Maccon is absent. I find that unsettling as well because it would make it possible for the author to eventually write off Lord Maccon.

However, those are my only two complaints about the series and this book. I read the first book, Soulless, in January, and I devoured it. The tone of these books reminds me, in part, of the Elizabeth Peters Eqyptologist books where proper Victorian form is balanced with mystery and humor. Alexia is a force of nature who carries a loaded parasol and stands undaunted in this world of the supernatural. The supporting characters are interesting, and there is a wealth of back stories and histories that should unfold over future books.

These books are a little bit history, a little bit mystery, a little bit steam punk, and every bit lovely. I highly recommend them.

Even if I'm not willing to give up my imaginary baby for vampire adoption.

Here's more information about Heartless on Pin It

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