Dogears: Short Book Reviews
Changeless is the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series. A five-book series set in Victorian England, but with an alternative history where supernaturals (werewolves and vampires) are accepted as members of society. Alexia Tarabotti, the heroine, is soulless which means she is unaffected by the powers of supernaturals — they turn mortal at the mere touch of her bare hand.
In Changeless, a strange plague is stripping the immortal powers of supernaturals. Alexia must figure out what is going on using her razor sharp wit and parasol which she frequently uses for warding off attacks. She does this all while dealing with her stubborn werewolf husband, her inexplicable attraction to the mysterious, cross-dressing Frenchwoman Madame Lefoux, and her best friend’s terrible taste in hats.
The Parasol Protectorate is a comedy of manners in the tradition of Austen, Dickens, and PG Wodehouse, but with steampunk and supernaturals! How can one not love it?! Bonuses — Carriger toys with queerness in her characters and Alexia is no shrinking violet in temperament nor looks. The narrative voice is cheeky and irreverent though sometimes it veers a little too close to Alexia’s tone. I found the plot twist at the end somewhat forced. My bestie and I went back and forth on this arguing over whether or not it was a plausible ending. She thinks it is plausible considering it is Victorian England, I think our heroine is smarter than that. Regardless, Changeless is a delightful romp with a sharp wit and playfulness befitting its premise.
There are five books in the series; all of which are currently available. Additionally, Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage is a YA series out of the same verse as the Parasol Protectorate. You can read a WWAC review of this YA series here.
Random House, LLC
How can a story about rabbits be so damn creepy? Magic for Beginners isn’t exactly horror, but all nine stories in this collection had an off-kilter feel — like you thought you were just out enjoying looking at the stars in your backyard, but suddenly there’s something moving low in the grass, just out of sight except for the glint of sharp metal in the moonlight. Here’s what I thought of three of them, but I would definitely recommend the whole book.
In “The Library“ a group of kids is obsessed with the titular pirate TV show, but the story is really about how Jeremy, one of the group, deals with growing up. The TV show interacts with his life in weird ways, such as when he gets phone calls from one of the characters, Fox, before dreaming of the two girls he has a crush on in her role. The kids have a costume party when Jeremy and his mother leave to take care of a dead relative’s estate, and it’s a strange night of high heels and first kisses and sweet gestures. Their journey is a cover for the break Jeremy’s parents are taking after his author (and kleptomaniac) father writes Jeremy into his latest book, then kills the character. Strange happenings await them in Las Vegas, although none of it seems to have much of an impact on Jeremy, who longs for his friends and his TV show. The story ends without clarifying how much was real, and left me wanting to know how the TV show ended as well.
“Catskin“ felt like an old-school fairy tale, with witches and cats and babies, but it got real weird, real quick. The language Link uses is lush but gross, and the details of bodily fluids and smells are really vivid. The witch charges one of her children, her youngest son Small, to get revenge on the enemy witch who had poisoned her. Then she dies and her other children scatter, and Small lies down on the witch’s grave to sleep. He wakes covered in cats, and there is a new cat, who calls herself the Witch’s Revenge. More magic follows, and Small ends the story with his revenge accomplished yet still yearning for his mother.
That brings us back to the creepy rabbits. “Stone Animals“ is a circular story, winding around and around, and it reminded me a lot of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. A family buys a house with little stone animals on the front porch, and tons of rabbits living in the yard, and things go very, very wrong.