Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Changeless" by Gail Carriger

I really dislike writing negative reviews.  To channel Gail Carriger's Alexia Tarabotti [Maccon], I find the act horribly uncouth.  If you've come to this blog to read scathingly negative and vitriolic reviews, I believe you've mistaken The Penny Dreadful Review for Pitchfork Media.

That being said, Changeless was a terrible disappointment.

I read Gail Carriger's debut novel Soulless a few months ago and found it not only compulsively readable, but also a welcomed breath of fresh air.  Carriger's prose is wonderfully different from all other urban fantasy; think a dry, British, comedy-of-manners style.  Not only that, but her characters are quirky and likable, to boot.

Again, that being said, Changeless was a serious misstep.

What was so wonderfully unique and quirky in Soulless manages to be a bit silly and even grating in Changeless.  The loose and meandering plot that made Soulless seem so relaxed and carefree seems haphazard and slipshod in Changeless.  I don't want to harp on shortcomings, but there was very little about Changeless that I enjoyed.

Changeless picks up pretty much where Soulless left off.  Alexia Tarabotti, now Alexia Maccon, Mujah to the queen, is embroiled in the heart of supernatural matters in steampunk London, swinging her favorite parasol at any evil head that comes near her.  She's investigating a strange phenomenom that is making all supernatural folk in a given area be struck by the terrible plight of mortality, ie they lose all supernatural power and become mortal.  Things meander around London for a while, introducing a few groan-worthy character situations (for example, Ivy Hisselpenny's crush on Alexia's husband's thespian claviger), and incredibly forced romantic interractions (please see: sexual tension between Alexia and an annoying werewolf gamma; sexual tension between Alexia and a female French inventor [?]. After the sexual tension was shoehorned into nearly every scene with Madame Le Foux, I began to wonder if Alexia is sexually attracted to simply everyone she meets).

After a terribly long time, Alexia finally makes her way to Scotland in pursuit of her wayward husband.  Shenanigans ensue.  Cue zaniness.  And some Benny Hill music.

When Alexia "discovers" what has been causing this previously inexplicable outbreak of mortality, it absolutely comes out of left field about 80% of the way through the book.  Okay, I'll deal.  But the resolution to this faux-locked house mystery is only managed by one character literally explaining everything to our heroine at great length.  Some Mujah detective lady Alexia turns out to be!

To frustrate further, the cliffhanger to this novel hinges on a misunderstanding to which the answer is dreadfully evident to any and everyone reading it.  You'll probably say "Seriously?" aloud just like I did.  The only person who doesn't get it is Alexia's husband, the apparently blockheaded Lord Maccon.

Oh dear, I don't want to go further, I've gone on far too long, already.  With Changeless, Miss Gail Carigger has managed to undo much of her well-earned good graces with me here at The Penny Dreadful Review, though I have not entirely lost hope.  There are still many wonderful things in Changeless, mainly the characters and character interractions, but I very much hope she resolves her plotting issues as well as her character motivations.  The reasons characters make huge life altering decisions should be based on stronger grounds than confused propriety or juvenile misunderstandings.

I do hope that Blameless, The Parasol Protectorate: Book the Third is stronger than this effort, which earns the moniker 'sophomore slump' all too well.

It will, however, be a very long time until I read Book the Third to find out.

Changeless, The Parasol Protectorate: Book the Third
by Gail Carigger
published by Orbit

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