From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Changeless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel by Gail Carriger

Review by Cynthia Ward

Gail Carriger made quite a splash with her extraordinarily enjoyable debut novel, Soulless (2009; read the Fantasy Magazine review), a steampunk-spiced urban fantasy novel of manners. She and her charming protagonist, Alexia Maccon nee Tarabotti, return with Changeless, a steampunk novel of manners spiced with urban fantasy.

The title refers to a strange plague infecting isolated parts of the British Isles. Like the “preternatural” protagonist, the mysterious contagion shuts down supernatural powers. Specifically, it reverts werewolves and vampires to their mortal—and very vulnerable—human state. As the head of Queen Victoria’s Bureau of Unnatural Registry, Alexia’s new husband, the Earl of Woolsey, travels to investigate the possible source of the plague in Scotland—his original home, and home of his estranged werewolf pack.

Without his knowledge, his wife follows. She travels by dirigible, but not—alas—alone. She is accompanied by her friend (a silly goose), her sister (a malicious bitch), her maid (a suspected spy), her husband’s valet (who is in love with her friend), and a mysterious new acquaintance: the inventor Madame Lefoux, who dresses remarkably (in men’s clothing) and seems to have a more than collegial interest in Lady Woolsey. Aethographic messages fly, an unknown foe makes repeated attempts on Alexia’s life, and the political and romantic plots thicken as Lord and Lady Woolsey close in on the cause of the anti-supernatural curse.

Gail Carriger’s second novel successfully eludes a different curse, the sophomore slump. While the humor is occasionally overdone, Changeless is the equal of Soulless: witty, sexy, graceful, and unpredictable. With a few more novels this delightful, Ms. Carriger will be challenging Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris for the top of the New York Times bestseller lists.

It should be mentioned that, while Changeless successfully resolves its storyline, it also ends with one of the steeper cliffhangers in literary history. Those readers not too devastated by shock will be rioting in the streets (or at least the steampunk convention dealers’ rooms) if the next book in the series, Blameless, is not swiftly forthcoming.

Changeless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel: The Parasol Protectorate: Book the Second
Gail Carriger
Orbit Books
978-0-316-07414-8 | mmp | $7.99 US
April 2010

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