Book Review – Heartless by Gail Carriger

WHAT’S PLAYING: The Cataracs feat. Dev “Top of the World”

I’ve fallen woefully behind on my book a week challenge, so I decided to up the ante to two books a week.

This week’s first book is Heartless by Gail Carriger.

 

Alexia Tarabotti is back! Eight months pregnant and as formidable as ever. When a ghost appears with a garbled message that seems to indicate a supernatural plot to assassinate Queen Victoria, Alexia leaps (or rather waddles) into action and starts digging into the past. To do this, she enlists the help of her longtime friends, the vampire Lord Akeldama and Ivy Turnstell née Hisselpenny. All this while her sister Felicity is trying to genteelly run away from their parents by moving in with Alexia and joining the suffragette movement. But Lady Maccon has another problem – the vampire hives want her dead because of the child she carries.

Alexia Maccon is one of the best protagonists I’ve ever come across. She’s independent, strong, intelligent and fierce. I love how she forges ahead through even the most difficult circumstances with practicality, calm, and of course, tea. Though her powers are not extensive or miraculous when compared to her supernatural companions, she still manages to be awesome.

If I had to pick one thing to complain about, it would be the plot. It just moved slower than in the other books, and a couple of the twists were obvious red herrings that I could have done without.

Still, I have to say it was wonderful to visit with Alexia and friends once again and, as usual, Carriger’s world building left me in awe.

Favorite Line/Image: They poured out the lower doors and windows of the castle, howling to the skies. They evolved into a kind of cohesive moving liquid, flowing down the hillside as one silvered blob, like mercury on a scientist’s palm. The howling became deafening as they neared, and they were swifter than Alexia remembered, full of eternal rage at a world that forced such a cost of immortality upon them. Any human would flee, and Alexia could see that even the vampires were tempted to run away from the massive supernatural force charging toward them.

At the front ran the biggest of the lot, a brindled wolf with yellow eyes, intent on but one thing—a smell on the evening breeze. It was the scent of mate, and lover, and partner, and fear, and something new coming. Near to that, twining with it, was the scent of young boy, fresh meat to be consumed. Underneath was the smell of rotten flesh and old bloodlines—other predators invading his territory. Dominating it all was the odor of industry, a monstrous machine, another enemy.

Bottom Line: Once again, Gail Carriger delivers a wonderful romp, replete with mannerly humor and humorous manners.

Coming Up Next: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

 

Book a Week Challenge (Late Edition) – Book 13

WHAT’S PLAYING:  Rihanna feat. Jay-Z “Talk That Talk”

This week’s first book is The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch.

This is the story of Locke Lamora, a thief and con artist plying his trade in the ancient city of Camorr. Tricking the more gullible nobles out of their fortunes is little more than a game for him and his friends, the Gentleman Bastards. But then a mysterious figure known as the Gray King decides to use Locke as a pawn in his bid to take over Camorr’s organized crime syndicate. And to make matters worse, the Duke’s secret police, the Midnighters, are hot on his trail.

The Lies of Locke Lamora tells two tales: the first is the story of Locke’s childhood, raised as an orphaned thief on the merciless streets of Camorr, and the second is the latest confidence game he and his gang, the Gentleman Bastards, are trying to pull off amidst an escalating feud between a mysterious villain known as the Gray King and the city’s underworld boss. Lynch’s expert weaving of these two storylines allows us to become completely immersed in the world of Camorr and thoroughly invested in his characters. Even when Locke is at his most arrogant, you can’t help but love him and the rest of the gang. So, when circumstances go from good to bad to worse to “oh shit!”, there’s nothing to do but see it through.

I have one nit to pick with this book. Locke spends much of the book pining over a character who is discussed but never seen. We spend so much time hearing about his lost love, Sabetha, that it’s a bit of letdown when she doesn’t appear, not even in a flashback.

Still, this is a book you won’t want to miss. Everything comes together the way epic fantasy should, but rarely does. Twists and turns abound, taking the reader from laughter, through shock, tears, and terror, only to come back to laughter.

Favorite Line/Image:  “I don’t have to beat you,” Locke whispered, grinning madly up at the Gray King, his face streaked with blood and tears, his nose broken and his lips cracked, his vision swimming and edged with blackness. “I don’t have to beat you, motherfucker. I just have to keep you here…until Jean shows up.”

At that, the Gray King became truly desperate, and his blows fell like rain, but Locke was heedless of them, laughing the wet braying laugh of utter madness. “I just have to keep you here…until Jean…shows up!”

What I Learned:  I grew up watching reruns of the A-team, and one of my favorite memories is the wonderful George Peppard as John “Hannibal” Smith chomping on his cigar and growling, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Well, that’s exactly how I feel about this book. Original premise, memorable characters, and gorgeously realized setting and description, all mesh seamlessly into something that is truly fantastic. But it is the story’s nonlinear architecture that will keep you turning the pages long after you should be in bed.

Bottom Line:  Read it! Read it now!

Coming Up Next: Heartless by Gail Carriger