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Gail Carriger – Prudence

July 29, 2015

27. Prudence by Gail Carriger (2015)
The Custard Protocol, Book 1

Length: 368 pages
Genre: Historical Steampunk Fantasy

Started: 02 June 2015
Finished: 07 June 2015

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Gail Carriger’s books are reliably fun.

What’s a girl with her
first airship to do? Go solve
crimes in India!

Summary: Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, daughter of a soulless and a werewolf, and adoptive daughter of a vampire (political reasons, you know), is a metanatural – that is, she can steal the supernatural powers of a werewolf or vampire at a touch, and use them as her own until she gets too far away from their source. But she’s also a refined and proper young lady of good social standing… well, she might be working on the “refined and proper” part a bit. When her adoptive father Lord Akeldama gives Prudence her own airship, she promptly names it The Spotted Custard, has it painted like a giant ladybug, and – at some subtle prompting by her father – takes it off to India, ostensibly as part of a Grand Tour, but also to investigate some new tea business. She’s not going alone, of course: she’s got her best friend Primrose Tunstell, Prim’s distractedly scholarly older brother Percival, and the rakish but oddly charming Quesnel Lefoux. Things are floating along smoothly, until Prudence stumbles into a plot involving a kidnapping, Indian political dissidents, and several supernaturals who know who she is, and revile her as a soul-stealer.

Review: This was just as much fun as Carriger’s other books; I would expect nothing less. They’re not Serious Literature, for sure, but sometimes you need something silly and funny and light that contains a good adventure and some good laughs and a touch of romance and some vampires and werewolves and a little bit of steampunky-ness and Prudence delivers on all counts. I also liked that it was set in colonial India under Queen Victoria, which was not something that I’ve read about before, and even though this is clearly an alternate fantasy universe, it did touch on some of the legitimate issues of the time. This book is fun, fast reading, and very easy to get absorbed in and fly through. The only issue was that my copy was very poorly copyedited, and had tons of typos (someone “gave case” [chase]; someone was “ginning [grinning] hugely”; “the wolds [words] resolved themselves into: ‘My hat. My favourite hat!'”) that I found very distracting.

Like Carriger’s Finishing School series, this book (and the series it is starting) is understandable on its own without having read The Parasol Protectorate books, but I think it’s probably better for knowing at least something about the previous generation. For example, I remembered the basics of Alessandra and Lord Maccon and Lord Akeldama and Ivy from when I read the original series a few years ago, but I know there were some secondary characters that seemed familiar, but whose details I couldn’t entirely remember, so I probably missed some of the subtleties. Not that a book featuring a giant ladybug dirigible is one that is necessarily awash in subtleties, but still. And on the subject of “not subtle,” the romance angle in this story, while sweet, was probably the least interesting part – it just felt too straightforward, and like something I’ve read before, which was unfortunate, considering how much I liked the romance in The Parasol Protectorate series. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you like steampunk / historical fantasy and are looking for a light, fun, easy read, you could do a lot worse than Gail Carriger. Would be perfect for an airplane, beach, or lazy summer afternoon.

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First Line: Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama was enjoying her evening exceedingly. The evening, unfortunately, did not feel the same about Lady Prudence.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 27: “As muhjah to Queen Victoria herself, Mother had an empire to manage which should take precedent over such inconsequential distractions as fashion, household management, and child-rearing.” – literally means “heart’s blood”; in the universe, it’s a political advisor to the queen.
  • p. 171: ““Oh, my dear young lady, I assure you this is mild, demulcent even, compared to the true summer suffering of this heathen land. … Such rains as we have been having already this month, a pabulum, a tempering of our customary languish–“” – Serving to soothe or soften; A substance that gives nourishment.

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