March 2012, Steampunk
Orbit, $7.99, 416 pages, Amazon ASIN 0316127183 Part of a series
I’ll sum it up in a nutshell. If you haven’t read Ms. Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate, then allow me to shoo you to book one, Soulless, because you’re missing out. If you think the series has jumped the shark, then this book probably won’t change your mind. And if you follow the series, then know that the conclusion to the series is a fun-filled, cheeky, satisfying end to the adventures of Alexia, Lady Maccon.
If you’re still here after the break, then I hope you’ve read the series, because I give no quarter. Know then that Timeless changes very little compared to previous books in the series. Oh, there are plot developments – the Maccons have now been married three years and little Prudence is a hell-raising, metanatural toddler who hates baths. For reasons much too complicated to explain, they sail to Egypt on the trail of the God-Breaker Plague, with the Tunstells and their drama troupe tagging along for a performance of The Death Rains of Swansea. Biffy and Professor Lyall do some detective work in London, and you’ll discover something you never knew about desert snails.
And I suppose there is character development of a sort, albeit very thin on the ground, particularly regarding our main characters. The secondary cast fares much better – Professor Lyall, Biffy, Madame Lefoux, and Lady Kingair have nuances now entirely absent from Alexia, who only exists to manage things and follow leads, and Conall, who only exists to growl and bluster.
However, that’s perfectly fine with me. Truly. See, I see the Parasol Protectorate almost as a steampunk, Victorian, prose version of Tintin. No one reads Tintin because the eponymous hero exhibits outstanding moral growth as he battles his own demons. Tintin is not a character – he’s a vehicle we ride so we can hear Snowy’s snarky comments, laugh at Captain Haddock’s fumbles, and travel to Peru. Tintin is about solving mysteries – in style.
Which is exactly how I’d describe Ms. Carriger’s series, except substitute Prudence for Snowy, the Tunstells’ troupe for Captain Haddock, and Egypt for Peru. The breadth of the author’s imagination, from the politicization of werewolf packs to the sartorial necessities of a three-person spy society, is both staggering to behold and a hoot to read. Who would have thought a two-year-old could be so hilarious? Or that a mechanized ladybug would provide serious laughs? Honestly, this series is fun.
I give much credit to Ms. Carriger for knowing when to end a good thing. The resolution to the series is quite satisfactory, and if there are teensy, weensy loose ends, well, that’s why Prudence is getting her own book, right?
-- Jean Wan
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