When Bitch Beer Ages to Good Boxed Wine: How Heartfelt Heartless Can Be

I completed Gail Carriger’s Heartless on a very long plane ride to Hawaii to visit my relatives and let me say, this book gave me great pleasure. The Parasol Protectorate series has steadily increased in treacle tarts and enjoyability almost to the point that when I closed my lovely paperback (which did not get trashed as it is hard to get trashed when you’ve only been opened in two places) I immediately wanted to read the next one. I’m loving this need-to-read feeling again, which as literally driven me through the Southern Reach Series and the Dark Tower. It’s great.

In Heartless, Alexia Tarabotti is eight months pregnant and just as feisty as ever, never one to let poor fashion and buttresses slow her down. When a ghost visits her warning her of a queen in peril, Alexia takes it upon herself to discover how Queen Victoria may be the target of an assassination attempt. She doesn’t have much to go on, but begins to delve into the history of her husband’s past pack’s scandal. All the while, the vampires continue their well meant but terribly inefficient assassination attempts (one somehow involved a gravy boat) until Alexia decides to let Lord Akeldama adopt her baby. This leads to a hilarious endeavor of the Maccons buying the house next door and establishing a pathway between their windows, which soon becomes a plank and then a bridge. Alexia waddles between her sister’s mysterious support of the suffrage movement and then to figuring out how to handle dear werewolf transformed Biffy, while uncovering just what happened with Lord Maccon’s old pack tried to kill Queen Victoria. Which just comes out as awesome.

Spoiler. Possible fan-girling going to happen right now but: Sandy and Lyall? Channing protecting Lyall from Alexia finding out about the Woolsey Alpha? Lyall being the center of the plot? I think my heart exploded in my chest. I think I even made squeaking sounds that made the person sitting next to me (watching Better off Saul) give me a weird look. I didn’t care. I was flailing. SO GOOD!

I have to give Carriger props. She knows how to maneuver her side characters in wonderful ways that let them develop their own stories while also providing our main characters with the sense to actually care and mention the side characters in conversations with other characters. Like, her main characters really care about the side characters.

This is going to take me on a weird tangent, but remember when How to Train Your Pet Dragon 2 came out and everyone was a little bit up in arms that Hiccup’s mother was such a powerhouse character and then she kind of fell to the sidelines because, well, the story didn’t revolve around her? I feel like Carriger realizes her side characters have immense potential to become protagonists themselves and she easily slides and eases these side characters into the spotlight while still allowing our real main characters room to move and breathe and complete their plots. It was awesome. I mean, I really want to give Carriger a handshake and say, “Well done, Lady. Well done.”

This may be a little bit because of the fan-girling, but I don’t care. It also could be because I’m a little invested in Lyall because, let’s face it, he’s Favorite Character and now I know he’s devious and sneaky and damaged as well, that just makes him all the more favorite. So I’m biased.

And can we talk about the hilarity of the writing? When Alexia sends Ivy to Scotland to investigate the Maccon’s previous pack’s betrayal and she sends back her report, I almost died laughing. Mainly because I am moving almost across the street from one of my best friends from college and we were contemplating what our code names would be and what princess walkie-talkies we should buy for our midnight rendezvous. And then I read that scene and was like: THIS. THIS IS MY LIFE.

With a lack of treacle tart. If only I knew where I could actually try treacle tart, I might understand what a disaster it would be to upend a cart of them. This isn’t a very good review, I realize that now, but I’ll tackle the next part. Alexia’s not very indulgent with our lesbian girl Madame LeFoux and while her steampunk octopus contraption was very silly in conception to destroy and get her boy back from the Vampire Queen (HA yes, Dear Reader, that was the twist!), the final decision about her fate/punishment left me a little sad and angry at Alexia. I know that Alexia’s suppose to have no soul and she can’t understand the true wolf mother a woman can turn into when her child is in danger, but I really wished she hadn’t sentenced Genevieve to serving the vampires until Quesnel grew up. I felt so sad for her. Like she’s now forced to live in a hellish world because she wanted to get her child back. And maybe destroyed a good part of London too. But still. They went to Italy together. They’re supposed to be buddies. You gotta have your girl’s back, Tarabotti.

And Alexia’s birth was quite hilarious. She kind of lost her mind trying to save all the werewolves from the sun and then inviting the vampires to stay at Woolsey Castle, but at least her birth was semi authentic and she didn’t just expel a supernatural skin stealer in a mere 45 minutes. Baby Prudence took a good six hours to come out and will be an interesting character for the next novel, which I am sad to say is the last. Even when I kicked and screamed my way through the beginning of the series, I’m hesitant to read the next book because endings are always a bit sad and I’m just starting to really like these books.

Although, if the Wikipedia machine be correct, a certain book series called the Custard Series is arriving with a tentative first title as Prudence. Titillating.

As I have to wait until I hit an actual bookstore to purchase the next novel, I’m on to the 4th Dark Tower. Come back to me, Roland. Let us see where Blaine the Train takes us and who shall win the riddling contest.

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