Thursday, June 2, 2016

Blameless by Gail Carriger

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Blameless by Gail Carriger

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Lady Alexia Maccon is a "preternatural", a woman born without a soul who can turn supernatural creatures mortal just by touching them. This is the third book of her adventures in a tongue-in-cheek, alternate version of the Victorian era, centering primarily upon an announcement of her pregnancy in the London gossip columns. Such rumormongering would be embarrassing enough on its own - Alexia shouldn't be capable of having a child with her husband, a werewolf, who refuses to believe the child is his - but the vampires of London fear what powers the baby might possess and are, as a result, out to kill her. Alexia may even have to flee as far as Italy, where she hears they drink (horror upon horrors!) coffee instead of tea.

What I Thought: In case the summary doesn't make it clear enough, this is not a book - or a universe - that takes itself seriously. Characters stand on propriety even when engaged in the most outlandishly swashbuckling feats, a carriage is attacked by a swarm of homicidal mechanical ladybugs, and a running gag develops where Alexia discovers a fondness for pesto (which is useful for repelling both vampires and werewolves - the garlic for the vampires, the basil for the werewolves). The humor is also, however, the primary reason to read the book: the dissonance between being placed in mortal peril and wishing one's opponents would politely state their murderous intentions, for example, makes action scenes laugh-out-loud funny instead of just thrilling, and everyone's fixation on tea is a fun parody of what's come to be seen as Victorian mores and manners. The characters also endear themselves immediately if you're in the mood for whimsy - Alexia is a thickset woman who wields a modified parasol as her weapon of choice, for example. There's a lot to like here if you're looking for beach reading.

Unfortunately, though everyone is amusing and charismatic, they're also (by and large) stereotypes. The foppish gay vampire may be hiding a brilliant mind behind that ridiculous facade, and may care deeply for each of the young men he's cultivated as "drones", but he's still both flamboyant and polygamous; the German scientist who studies preternaturals like Alexia may own a ridiculous, yappy, tiny dog, but he's still ultimately a mad scientist who treats his subjects as specimens and not as people. Carriger does a good enough job of making everybody likable (even the villains, usually through the use of more well-timed humor) for this not to grate as much as it might in other books, but it's present. A few notable characters buck conventions, however: Lord Maccon may be the brawny, proud Alpha of his werewolf pack, but his Beta is a compassionate, diplomatic "professor" who breeds sheep in his spare time. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of historical and comedic fantasy - especially those who prefer their supernatural creatures banding witty quips about instead of brooding.

Readalikes: The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, for more humorous fantasy; the Immortal Empire series by Kate Locke, for more funny (if more gruesome) supernatural antics in Victorian England.

Or look this book up on NoveList!