As much as it pains us, because we love Gail Carriger, we were a bit disappointed when we finished CHANGELESS, book two in The Parasol Protectorate. It’s possible most of what we didn’t like about CHANGELESS comes from a comparison to SOULLESS. It just didn’t match our expectations following her excellent first effort.
You see, all the cute things that worked FOR Gail in Book 1 (SOULLESS), started to work against her here in CHANGELESS. We thought the plot basis in Book 2 was much more interesting than the first book, but it was slowed waaaaay down by the dialog and interchange between characters. This led to the great idea for the story feeling unfocused.
We did love the return to the awesome Alexia-verse. We really do love the world Gail has created. The expansion on the setting–in the form of the Werewolf politics–was intriguing and entertaining. With less attention on the world however, our attention was pushed to the characters and plot. Like we said earlier the plot (less of a romance, more of a mystery) was more fun than the first book, if slowed down by all the forced silliness.
The majority of the book is pretty much setup. Standard middle book fare.
First off, we feel we need to get this off our chests:
Please. No more about Ivy’s hats. We just can’t bear it anymore. Ivy’s over-the-top silliness and fashion faux pas were OK in SOULLESS, but this book’s focus was different. It didn’t work, and this nonsense was…uh…nonsense. All it did was slow the book down, and didn’t add any laughs. There were points in the novel where we literally laughed out loud, but not one of them ever included Ivy or her hats.
As for the characters:
A lot of their actions or speech felt somewhat uncharacteristic from what we learned about them in the first book. Akeldama is more reserved. Ivy is dumber. Alexia is tougher and lost a lot of interest (for us) when she became less vulnerable. We felt something was off while reading the book, and the reasons why became very apparent in light of the ending, which we will get to. It seems that Gail made Alexia strong during this book so she could be broken down at the end of it. Madame Lefoux is a fun addition to the story despite the awkward scenes she was involved in.
Speaking of the ending, it just didn’t work. At all. That may seem harsh, but we are beyond annoyed that Gail decided to follow the ridiculous trend of splitting one book into two. The ending was a 100% unnecessary cliffhanger. We don’t hate cliffhangers in general, but this ending felt beyond the scope of the story Gail was telling in CHANGELESS, and seemed put there simply to string readers into her third book. In fact the main plot of the book was resolved, and then the extra was thrown in. It would have made a good beginning to a book, but made an absolutely horrid ending. Again, unfocused. The content of the ending is also contrary to the overall tone of the series up until now. It was a jarring transition from light, fluffy, and fun to somber and serious. A move, if you follow our blog, you know that we can appreciate. Darker is better (mostly)! Yet the way this ending and transition was presented was completely lacking in feelings of awesomeness.
Now, we realize that was a lot of things irritating us, and we focused on that for a good reason. Those elements could very well be deal breakers for readers, and we wouldn’t blame those readers at all. There is, however, good news for fans of Gail. Her writing is really, really good. In fact there is a marked improvement here from her first book. There is one thing that no sane individual could say about Gail; that she doesn’t do her research. She very obviously does, and uses it very well. The parts of the book that focused on the Shadow Council were by far our favorites. We loved the glimpse into the Queen’s management of the supernatural. Spiffy stuff indeed.
Bottom line, CHANGELESS is a decent book with flaws that is not nearly as entertaining or charming as SOULLESS. We had a good time reading it (Except for any part that included Ivy. We wished we had Alexia’s parasol to beat Ivy to a pulp with) despite the significant amount of things we didn’t like about the book. We should also throw in a disclaimer here that we probably aren’t the intended audience of this novel (series). While we loved SOULLESS, the problems with its sequel, CHANGELESS, drop the book very securely into the “Books that are Mediocre” section. Here is hoping BLAMELESS is a redemption of sorts.
Recommended Age: 16 and up.
Language: Who could bloody tell whether there was any swearing going on in this book with all the random vocabulary.
Violence: Do beatings with a parasol count?
Sex: Par for course for Gail. There are some references but it is handled with over the top humor.
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