The Short Version: Alexia Tarabotti, now Lady Maccon, doesn’t have a soul and is married to a werewolf. Being preternatural, she is thought to be the only thing that can remove the supernatural aspects of a human vampire/werewolf/ghost – but a sudden mass humanization in London sets everyone to wondering what – or who – could also have that power on a large scale. Lord Maccon takes this terribly inopportune moment to unexpectedly leave for Scotland. Alexia, annoyed by this, decides to follow – adventures ensue, featuring no less than a French inventor who smashes gender stereotypes, a two-bit ginger actor, lots of stuff from Egypt, and lots of Scottish accents. The book packs it all off with a twist that is a bit ridiculous but does a great job at making me want the next book right freaking now.
The Review: I don’t know why I called this series fluff in my first review. It isn’t, by any means. Fluff connotes something without merit – this series has, on the contrary, an abundance of merit. Or maybe it’s just the second-book-stretch that has made me realize how truly excellent this series is. Either way, Ms. Carriger (if you’re reading this as you read my first review – that fact, by the way, is still terribly exciting), I still believe that we should be friends based on tea preferences as well as proclivities for linguistic merriment and love of the supernatural. If you’re in New York anytime soon, tea is on me. Though it may not be British – these are the sacrifices we must make, attending proper tea outside the comforts of our own homes/England.
Anyway, the book. The adventure felt a bit more properly contained on this go-round – there wasn’t so much sprawl. There were moments of slight predictability – I feel as though I determined the identity of the villainess (SPOILERS….) a good forty or so pages before Alexia did. Still, I was happy to go along for the ride because it was such a damn fun ride. Alexia and Lord Maccon’s banter has only gotten better with marriage and while I thought for a split second it might end up being a contrived way to get everyone involved, the addition of Alexia’s sister and the hopelessly hat-challenged Ivy only added entertainment in Scotland.
First of all, Scotland. We’ve all been there (or if you haven’t, you can imagine it by finding a lot of rocks with some trees and bringing in a ton of fog and just when the fog is about to lift, an intolerable misting rain that is broken up by periods of downpour. The sun pokes out now and then, but is usually too intimidated by what it sees) and the perfectly droll roasting of the place is delightful. I am Scottish (and English, don’t worry, everybody) and I thought it hilarious. The best comment may’ve been “It’s almost Ireland!” which really, for those who don’t know, just sums up everything about the state of the British Isles.
Secondly, the plot. Sure, we ended up with a bit less Akeldama and co – although they put in enough appearances and are certainly crucial to the plot, saving Alexia from hundreds of miles away – and while that is somewhat saddening, I also didn’t mind it. I felt as though that first book was a bit too over-stuffed with characters. The fact that Carriger has a deep bench to pull from in terms of well-developed and interesting characters is only to her benefit – allowing some of those characters to sit on the sidelines for a book just goes to show how strong the entirety of the group is. The addition of Lefoux, especially, was a great one… and I’ll admit, her private moments with Alexia were a bit pulse-racing for me as well as for Lady Maccon. Only human, as it were. I can see her becoming an important player in the rest of the series and that’s a very good thing.
HUGE SPOILERS ABOUT TO ABOUND*************The only real qualm I had with this book is not the slight predictability I mentioned – because I find that even if I predict it, you can still get me there in style (which Changeless does effortlessly) – and it isn’t the twist either. I’ve seen a ton of reviews that are thoroughly peeved about the twist… which isn’t really a twist, when you think about it. You have that much [apparently excellent] sex, somebody’s gonna have a baby. The problem was Maccon’s ridiculous tantrum and refusal to realize the facts of the situation. Is it just because we’re in the 21st Century that it makes perfect sense to me that Alexia’s ability to turn him human when she is in physical contact with him would mean that he was no longer firing blanks? I guess I can’t think of a time when I’ve had to attack the prevailing wisdom of a culture so headlong. Well, anyway, can’t wait to see him eventually slink home with tail between legs… literally…
Rating: 4 out of 5. I can’t take this higher because of the predictability (sorry, must dock a half point) and the surprise at Maccon’s stunning idiocy at the end. It just threw me for a hell of a loop. I’m thinking it’ll all make sense in the larger scheme of the next book – but for now, to side with some of the crazies, it does frustrate one a bit. That said, I was delighted to slip so easily back into the world of the Protectorate and to see some of the greater mysteries that exist overarchingly in the series begin to peel away. Plus, I was drinking Fortnum & Mason tea the whole time I read it. Ms. Carriger, delighted as always – and, I reiterate, tea is on me.