The Short Version: Having been accused of infidelity by her werewolf husband, Alexia Maccon has quit her husband’s house and fled to her parents. Finding this to be a completely untenable arrangement, she accepts Lord Akeldama’s invitation to stay with him. Upon arrival, however, she finds that he (and his drones) have quit his London house. Trying to find answers to her “infant-inconvenience”, she embarks upon a trek across Europe and ends up in the hands of the Templars. Meanwhile, her husband is drunk and stupid and Lyall is doing the best he can to keep the pack together. He discovers some of the truth behind what drove Akeldama out of London and who has been spreading lies about Alexia. There is significantly less nibbling in this novel, for those interested in such diversions.
The Review: As my dear Ms. Lepri would undoubtedly agree, the lack of said nibbling in this novel is a borderline-frightening thought. Alexia and Maccon’s… activities always provided an entertaining and light-hearted diversion to the action of the rest of the play. Happily, I can report that the lack is barely noticeable. In fact, this might be the strongest entry in the series thus far – despite it feeling, at the end, a bit like a stopgap or an “Empire Strikes Back” kind of novel.
I’ve noticed, amongst the Goodreads community and other reviews, that some people were less-than-taken with this novel as compared to the first two. I distinctly remember one mentioning that this novel spent too much time with ancillary characters and took us too far away from the friends we made in the first novel. On the contrary, I found the increased stage presence of people like Professor Lyall and Madame Lefoux and even Floote to be quite welcome. It is a testament to Ms. Carriger’s writing abilities that she can leave us in the care of such well-developed secondary characters – many authors cannot create such a layered world of individuals.
There was a moment, in the reading of this book, that I paused and took a beat to reflect on just how wonderful this series is. It came when Akeldama (SPOILERS, etc) reappears in London, in Lyall’s BUR offices. Lyall, frustrated and beyond stressed, doesn’t even raise his head to see who this next visitor is… but then Carriger writes this paragraph describing the scent of Akeldama to a werewolf and Lyall says something like “Ah. Do come in, Lord Akeldama.” and the action jumps back to Alexia. It is, however, Carriger’s beautiful paragraph and just that feeling of excitement – of feeling so intertwined in the lives of these characters, even the ‘secondary’ ones – that put a completely content smile on my face. I was right there with Lyall, welcoming the foppish vampire in. It was just such a perfect moment at a perfect point in the text… it was the moment that safely established this series as one of the best going these days.
Sure, there are still a few issues to be had with this book. The end, for one thing, seemed just a bit too abrupt. It was rather “…oh. Its over?” for my taste. I don’t have a problem with Alexia’s quick forgiveness of Conall – anyone who has ever been in love, hopelessly, with someone knows exactly why she was so ‘quick’ to forgive. Yes, he said terribly hurtful things to her… but she knew that he couldn’t entirely feel that way. I don’t even know how to explain it. I guess the way it happens in the book is best, really – the authoress captures perfectly that way that love is completely irrational. I was with Alexia the whole time; I never believed she was being ridiculous or stupid. At least, no more than any person truly in love can be ridiculous or stupid.
I’m also a bit miffed that so many plot points were opened up without real resolution in this book. This is why I mention it feeling very “Empire Strikes Back” – we’ve been introduced to the potential of this child as the soul stealer, the Templars are after Alexia, the vampires have apparently just all gone batty (sorry, couldn’t help myself), and I feel like there is this seething lurking understory that we’ve barely even begun to address… like there is something else coming to this universe that we can’t even grasp yet. Some game-changing thing that has put all of these pieces onto the field and left them all quite on edge. Perhaps it’s the child… we’ll see, I suppose.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5. It isn’t a perfect book – the ending’s a little too slap-dash feeling for that. Indeed, I was actually a little… well, I wasn’t as in the mood when the nibbling returned as I had thought I would be. It just felt a little too out-of-place, all things considered. But the reason that this book outstrips its predecessors is the fact that we spent so much time with secondary characters but never really notice it. They are as engaging as Alexia and Conall and the fact that Ms. Carriger now clearly has quite the arsenal to choose from in plotting further adventures… well, I can only imagine that it’s going to get even better from here on out.