The Short Version: Things have, comparatively, settled down for Lady Alexia Maccon. She’s still living in a vampire’s third closet and her daughter is, well, her mother’s child – but no one has tried to kill her in a while, so things are relatively calm. But a summons from Alexandria’s vampire queen – the oldest vampire in existence – and a dead werewolf send things predictably into disarray. The entire supporting cast comes together and presents the most revealing (and perhaps the strongest) adventure yet for the Parasol Protectorate.
The Review: Whatever will I do, poppet, without the regular adventures of darling Alexia and her husband and Biffy and ‘Dama!’ and the whole gang? Really, it’s quite an inconven–what’s that you say? Ms. Carriger is writing further series set in the alternate universe, just not featuring the same specific characters?! Oh thank heavens, my delectable crumpet, I would have ruined my second-best cravat with crying otherwise.
…ahem. Sorry, it’s rather difficult not to pull an Akeldama impression after reading one of these books. I just want to talk about how wonderful it is and how delightful I feel upon the completion and how better than in the style of that incorrigible vampire? I’ll restrain myself, though – channel my inner Connal instead.
First things first: this is quite a finish to the series. Not only does it answer questions, it provides a rip-roaring plot in a new locale (a word on that shortly) and gives all of our characters equal footing. Indeed, there’s no imbalance here: everyone gets quite a bit of time onstage and as a result the book simply sings. Everything works like a well-oiled ornithopter. Every plot is equally interesting and equally enjoyable – so when we’re following Biffy and Lyall’s story in New York, we’re as engaged as we are when we’re with Alexia in Alexandria.
Alright, yes, Alexandria. Faithful readers of the blog/real-world companions will know that I have a special place in my heart for that city. I’ve never been, although I certainly feel like I’ve lived there: I’m speaking, of course, of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. That towering literary achievement which stands like a monolith over everything I’ve read since. So to return to Alexandria – but to see it from a world-just-next-to-ours point of view was an unexpected joy. Much like my joy in reading about this universe’s London, I was delighted to notice things and bring to bear my imagination’s Alexandria to better define the one on the page.
The plot in Alexandria is fresh in ways I didn’t quite expect. Encountering the Queen of the Vampires – formerly known as Hatshepsut, for the mythologists & historians among you (I was quite excited by that) – is always going to be worrisome because, well, I’ve met the Queen of the Vampires before. Her name was Akasha and Anne Rice had quite a bit to say about her. This is a different universe, of course, but the comparison lurked in my mind… until I met Matahaka. Of course, she’s not at all like what I expected – and so I was free to enjoy once again. The curiously simple reveal about the Godbreaker Plague was refreshing in its simplicity: it all made so much sense and shed some deliciously unsavory light on Alexia’s pops.
The further revelations about the world of the series were much appreciated, too. SPOILERS FOLLOW.
The discovery of water as a tempering agent for both Alexia and potentially Prudence’s powers – Biffy’s unexpected manifestation as eventual Alpha – ‘Dama’ (as Prudence calls him) and his faaaaaar-reaching network – how the supernatural beings migrated around the world, even. Simply fantastic. There are still quite a number of questions… but I have the feeling we’ll come to learn about those things over the course of the ensuing series (serieses?).
Rating: 5 out of 5. All in all, I felt quite content to leave our intrepid and witty adventurers in this place. It felt right to close the series here. As much as I want to see these characters again and again and again, something about this felt right. Their time as lead characters is over and we can safely just imagine their futures instead of worrying about what they would eventually be. I can just see Alexia and Connal headed into old age in Alexandria, operating a tea-import shop… and who knows, perhaps Justine and Darley will be their customers one day. A thoroughly enjoying end to a continuously wonderful series. Ms. Carriger, our tea friendship lives on and I’m eagerly looking forward to whatever comes next, with The Finishing School and The PP Abroad and whatever else comes after that.