There are many ways to define a good book. There are ones with brilliant worldbuilding, books that drag you in and make you wish you were in that world rather than just in your armchair. (Like V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic.) There are ones with characters so alive you wish they could be your friend. (Like Jacky Faber from L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series.) There are ones whose words bleed off the page, visceral and emotional so that you quote it again and again. (Like Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.) And then there are books that are all of this while somehow being a pure delight to read.
Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series is a pure delight to read.
The Parasol Protectorate series takes place in a steampunk London where all sorts of mythical creatures are real. Werewolves run in packs throughout the world, each with a designated Alpha to keep them in line – though somehow a pack ended up taking residence right on the outskirts of the city, the scoundrels.Vampires are real, and while most are confined to the area where their queens reside, there are a few misfits who run around on their own. And there are automatons, and strange mechanical ladybugs, and there was that incident one time with a hedgehog… but we don’t talk about it.
Within this world, we follow Alexia Tarabotti, a woman who was born with an Italian nose and no soul whatsoever, and so has landed herself as a spinster among London’s upper-ranking social classes. It’s not something she minds – she’s in no rush to settle down, much to her mother’s constant chagrin – but why settle down when there are so many interesting things to explore?
There is, for instance, the vampire that attacked her in the middle of a private ball. Why was he alone? Where was his queen, and why did she not explain to him that Alexia, having been born without a soul, can cancel out his supernatural abilities? And why is he not the only loner roaming the streets of London?
There is also Lord Conall Maccon, the gruff Alpha werewolf of the London pack and the head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry. He seems to know a lot about the mysteries going on in London, and doesn’t want her involved at all. Of course, that means she just has to be involved. And if he happens to be nice on the eyes, and happens
A steampunk romp is the best way to describe this book. It’s action-packed with a most wonderful smattering of romance. There are moments that will make you laugh and moments that will make you gasp and all of it is fun. Plus you get the most amazing side characters – Lord Akeldama, the most clever independent vampire of them all; Ivy Hisselpenny, Alexia’s best friend with a fondness for ecentric hats; and Genevive Lefoux, the strange scientist who insists on dressing like a man.
And that’s just the first book. Why would I talk about the others? Spoilers are awful things – but trust me, they’re all equally fun and delightful. And once you devour them, Carriger has two spin-off series set in the same world. What’s not to like?