This week I’m reading the Alexia Tarabotti series by Gail Carriger. They are so much fun! Vampires, werewolves, parasols, teapots, dirigibles… what’s not to love?
The books are set in Victorian London (1873), where werewolves and vampires co-exist in harmony with humans. In fact, the Queen employs one of each as advisors. Werewolves serve in the army as fighters. Vampires are tendsetters in fashion and style. Steam engines power such wonders as ascension rooms (elevators), ornithopters (helicopters), and aethographors (similar to a telegraph). Tea is always served on time.
What stands out most are the characters. You have to love Miss Ivy Hisselpenny, with her gift of engaging in mindless chatter and her love of hideous hats. Or Lord Akeldama, the vampire fop with a love of outlandish clothes, a penchant for spying, and the uncanny ability to come up with silly terms of endearment on the fly, like squash blossom and dipped biscuit. Mrs. Loontwill is prone to wearing yellow and fits of hysteria. Lord Maccon is a large, bumbling werewolf who hates wearing a cravat and sings opera, poorly, in the bathtub.
It’s the protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti, who really sticks with you. She’s soulless, so at her touch, supernatural folks lose their supernatural state. She’s the embodiment of practicality. She finds death threats to be trifling inconveniences, and adores treacle tarts. She’s a spinster with a father who’s both Italian and dead. She’s eccentric, pragmatic, and wants to be “useful” in a society where women of high standing are supposed to be married and expert shoppers. It’s her desire to be useful and her knack for attracting trouble that lead her on wonderful adventures against mad scientists, awkward curses, pesto-serving Templars, and plots against the queen.
If you love witty dialogue, laugh-out-loud antics, and a rich fantasy world full of supernatural wonders and romance, then you’ll love this series. A word of warning, the first book has a romantic element and contains quite a bit of canoodling. If sex scenes annoy you, skip the last chapter of the first book. The remaining romantic scenes are amusing and mostly tasteful.