‘Heartless’ is book four in ‘The Parasol Protectorate’ series, so it goes without saying there are bound to be spoilers about the previous books in this review. I suggest you start reading the reviews and books in the correct order to avoid any unwanted surprises. The previous books in the series being in order ‘Soulless’, ‘Changeless’ and ‘Blameless’. The last book in this series being ‘Timeless’, but don’t be fooled, there are hints of a new series involving the Parasol Protectorate but this time abroad!
Lady Alexia Maccon just can’t seem to keep out of trouble, even when she is precariously close to giving birth to a baby. She is a little more prone to over-balancing but with her trusty parasol she can still pretty much take on anything. This time we’re following her in the pursuit of protecting the queen from some kind of assassination attempt and, given her husband’s current werewolf packs proclivity for attempting assassination, she has just reason for some concern. Not only does Alexia have the pregnancy and random information about assassination attempts on the queen to deal with, it appears someone is still out to kill her as well, involving zombie porcupines!
Given all the above information about this book, you would think it was packed full of action but, somehow, it didn’t seem to be as interesting to me as the previous books in the series, not until right at the end when all hell breaks loose. In fact, I found myself having read a large chunk of the book being unable to remember what it was actually about, probably because there was an awful lot of describing things rather than any actual action. There were some really interesting elements about Alexia’s father and his connections to the Woolsey werewolf pack. I’m glad we’re learning more about Alexia’s father as I think Alexia and us, as readers, need to find out what happened to him and how what he did affects both Alexia and those around her in her lifetime.
I did feel that whereas the previous books were all about Alexia charging about and finding herself in trouble with a new set of baddies each time, this book was more sedate and we instead learnt a lot more about the regular characters. It was more about feelings and emotions and coming to terms with things rather than beating or rescuing someone. Maybe this was Carriger’s way of showing that Alexia was pregnant, which although it was interesting did mean she couldn’t be a gung-ho as usual. I enjoyed the background to Alexia’s father, Professor Lyall, and watching Biffy come to terms with an after-life he wasn’t exactly prepared for. However, I did miss all the usual action you get with Alexia.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some really funny sections such as the ritual to become a member of the Parasol Protectorate or the use of croquet skills to defeat giant mechanical monsters. There just wasn’t as much of this as I seem to remember in the previous books or even in Carriger’s other series of books.
Overall, the book wasn’t bad but it felt a little like a mid-series book which I suppose it is but Carriger seemed to be rather good at avoiding that feeling in the previous books. The answer to the question you’re all wondering: does Alexia give birth in this book and if so to what…well, you’ll just have to read it and see, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise!
(pub: Orbit. 311 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-356-50009-6)