Sunday, 25 March 2012

Power Unbound by Nicole Murphy

Power Unbound, by Nicole Murphy, is the second book in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy. You can read my review for the first book, Secret Ones, here.

Where Secret Ones followed Maggie and Lucas, Power Unbound shifts to following Ione, Maggie’s best friend, and Stephen, a gadda who is about to sit for the highest test of power. Although there are a few scenes in Austin, Texas, most of this novel is set in Ireland. Despite the shift in character focus, the overarching plot continues on from the first book, featuring more prominently, and all the characters we like from the first book pop up again.

Ione is unique among gadda for having particularly weak power, despite coming from an old and powerful family. She came to terms with it long before the story started and spends her time working as a computer programmer. She’s also a widow and has a young (10 or 11 year old) son to look after. It would be easy to say that Ione offers more depth of character than Maggie did, but I think what really makes this story better is Murphy’s development as a writer. (And the fact that Lucas’s past in the first book wasn’t exactly straight forward.)

The whole novel hangs together better and I found it more enjoyable. The romantic plot line is less linear and, while we know that the two characters will end up together (it is paranormal romance, after all), the obstacles in their way felt less artificial. It was more about them being silly than external circumstances, which I liked.

The fantasy plot line was more action-packed than in Secret Ones. The danger was greater and the stakes were higher. Also, more progress was made working out who’s been behind all the evil shenanigans. Unlike the first book, it felt less like the relevant characters were flailing around not getting anywhere. (To be fair, in the first book the trouble was quite different in nature and didn’t initially seem to be connected to the overarching plot.)

The end of Power Unbound set up the final book in the trilogy quite well. Unfortunately, I have to wait a few months before I can read it (I want a matching paper set, not the ebook), but I definitely want to know what happens next and how everything is resolved. Oh, I should also mention that while the overarching plot follows on from Secret Ones, I think it’s possible to read Power Unbound by itself. It contains some spoilers for the first book, but doesn’t actually rehash all the details, so you could still read the first book afterwards. Of course, it’s better to read them in order but if, for example, you’re particularly interested in the Ditmar eligible works which include Power Unbound and the third book, Rogue Gadda, you could probably get away with skipping Secret Ones.

Overall, Power Unbound was an enjoyable read. I definitely recommend it to fans of paranormal romance.

4 / 5 stars

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Secret Ones by Nicole Murphy

Secret Ones is Nichole Murphy’s debut novel, published by Harper Voyager (Aus) in 2010. It’s a paranormal romance novel set in Ireland and rural New South Wales. Being a paranormal romance, rather than straight urban fantasy, the romantic plot line was significantly more prominent than what I usually read, which was an interesting change of pace.

The main character, Maggie, is one of the gadda, a race of magic-wielding people who look human, but aren’t (and can’t interbreed). Generally, the gadda start their magic training at the age of thirteen, then progress through levels of examinations as they gain more control of their powers. Maggie, however, didn’t want to start when she was thirteen. She stubbornly chose to finish her ordinary human schooling before entering the gadda world at eighteen. Even after joining the ranks of magic users, she continued to pursue human studies, slowing down her magical studies. The result is that, refreshingly, she isn’t a teenager (it’s possible I’ve been reading too many YA urban fantasy novels with be-all and end-all romantic plotlines) and nothing that happens is particularly unrealistic in terms of her reactions and how she deals with it etc. (And of course, there are more sex scenes than in YA.)

The male lead is a physicist (entirely biased yay!) who crosses the heroine’s path when he takes a research position in Australia at her grandfather’s university. Smart, smoking hot and with a dark past, he makes an excellent foil for Maggie and, to an extent, offers an outsider’s perspective on the gadda.

I found the structure of Secret Ones different to other urban fantasy books I’ve read (admittedly, I can only think of one other paranormal romance book I’ve read recently, so it could just be me). The romantic plot line seemed to be more or less tied up before the climax of the fantasy storyline happens a bit suddenly and then there are more ramifications than I expected. Which isn’t to say the novel was badly paced; quite the contrary, in fact. I didn’t feel bored at any point and there weren’t any paragraphs I wanted to skip. It was just different to what I’m used to.

Secret Ones is book one in a trilogy, but the other two books, Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda focus on other characters. That means that, while the overarching plot isn’t resolved, there was no cliff hanger at the end. Sometimes it’s nice not to feel like the world will end if you don’t pick up the next book straight away. …That said, I think I will pick up Power Unbound next.

I found Secret Ones to be an enjoyable, light read. I recommend it to anyone who feels like a bit of paranormal romance or urban fantasy.

3.5 / 5 stars

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Torn by Amanda Hocking

Torn is the second book in Amanda Hocking’s Trylle Trilogy. You can read my review of Switched, the first book, here.

Torn picks up the same day Switched left off. It carries on much in the same vein, except that instead of Wendy being new to the world of the Trylle and kept in the dark, she quickly learns more pieces of relevant back story. A few new characters are introduced, but the strength of this book is in developing existing secondary characters and unfurling the world’s history.

An aspect I found interesting was Hocking’s development of Wendy’s romantic prospects, something I didn’t quite notice until I was more than halfway through Torn. In Switched, while Wendy seems to have a small crush on every appropriately-aged boy, there’s only one relationship that she’s particularly invested in (romantically) and that seems to go anywhere. In Torn, she continues collecting crushes on all the appropriately-aged boys (actually, only one new one is introduced, but still). However, the romantic plotlines are less straightforward than what I’ve seen in other YA books. This is not a case of her having to choose between two options. For a start, there are three options. But more seriously, her choice isn’t between boy A and boy B who both have things to recommend them. It’s a choice combining duty, love, availability, how well the boy treats her and a few spoilery factors. It’s also not a final choice, this been only book two of three, but I like the added complexity and the way in which it’s explored. Once I picked up on it, Torn  became much more interesting.

It also helped that the book seemed to encourage sensible romantic choices. Unlike Twilight (it always comes down to Twilight, doesn’t it?), when one of the boys keeps pushing her away for her own good, she doesn’t sulk and throw herself off a cliff, she gets annoyed (and, OK, sulks a bit, but that’s understandable) and moves on. This quote, a piece of advice given her by her mother, sums up the series’ attitude well:

“I don’t need love or a man to complete me, and someday you’ll find that’s true for yourself. Suitors will come and go, but you will remain.”

Given that she’s seventeen, the attitude of “your life isn’t made or lost based on one romantic relationship” is healthy and refreshing.

Overall, I found Torn just slightly less exciting than Switched. I’m not sure I can quite put my finger on a single reason why, but it was still very enjoyable. I look forward to reading the third book when it comes out.

4 / 5 stars

“I didn’t think there were real trolls.” I furrowed my brown, trying to remember what Finn had told me about trolls before. “I thought they were just myths.”

“Really? After everything that’s happened? So you pick and choose what mythology you believe in?”

Torn, Amanda Hocking (review)

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Switched by Amanda Hocking

For those of you that don’t keep up with book/publishing news (or that have been living under a bookless rock), Amanda Hocking is one of Amazon’s self-publishing success stories. She sold a pile of self-published Kindle ebooks on Amazon — enough to quit her day job — and then last year snagged a publishing contract with a traditional publisher (Pan Macmillan). They are re-releasing some of her self-published books and, as I understand it, also publishing new books of her later in the year.

Switched is the first book in the Trylle Trilogy, the re-released trilogy (my copy, if you’re wondering, is a Tor ebook from Book Depository). From what I’ve read on Amanda Hocking’s blog, the traditionally published editions aren’t significantly different from the originals, especially story-wise, but are better edited with some extended/reworked scenes and each book contains a short story set in the same world. The funny thing is, I knew most of the above without having any idea, beyond YA fantasy, what Hocking’s books were about.

Trolls. Instead of vampires or werewolves or [insert over-used supernatural creature here], the Trylle Trilogy is about a seventeen year old girl who learns that she isn’t human but a changeling troll (or Trylle in polite society). Well, at least that explains why her human mother tried to kill her when she was six.

I was quite taken by Switched from the start. Wendy, the narrator, has a compelling voice and, although it’s not a comedy, the book was unexpectedly funny. Wendy has fairly definite ideas about who she is, even after she accepts that she’s a Trylle with some magic powers. Those ideas tend to conflict with what other people want and expect from her, which is a source of a lot of the tension in the book.

I was quite pleased when the opening was a bit of anti-Twilight; Wendy is appropriately creeped out by the strange boy at school staring at her and when he watches her at night, labels him a stalker. It’s a healthy response that I felt I could get behind. (Of course, it turns out there’s a reason the strange boy is being strange, but it was still nice to see Wendy react appropriately. Unlike Bella.)

Wendy didn’t exactly have an easy childhood, particularly with her mother being institutionalised after trying to kill her. She never fit in at any of the schools she was ultimately kicked out of and had never quite managed to make friends. That part might be standard fare for secretly magic children, but, far from locking her in a cupboard under the stairs, her brother and aunt have always been good to her. They are a large reason why she doesn’t want to leave her old life, even when faced with the promise of magic powers and confusingly alluring boys.

I liked that from Wendy’s very first step into the new world of the Trylle, not everything is sunshine and roses. It’s a nice change from the everything-looks-peachy-on-the-surface-but-something-is-dodgy-underneath-it-all trope.

Ultimately, Switched is a fun, well-paced and funny read. I’ve picked up the second book, Torn, to read straight away (though unfortunately the third book, Ascend, isn’t out for a few weeks). On the other hand, if you’re after a deep exploration of the nuances of the human condition, perhaps pick up some Vonnegut instead.

4.5 / 5 stars

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Rhesus Factor by Sonny Whitelaw

The Rhesus Factor by Sonny Whitelaw has been sitting on my harddrive for a few years, waiting for me to finally get around to reading it. The Australian Women Writers Challenge gave me the push I needed to pick it up. The Rhesus Factor can be downloaded as a free pdf from Whitelaw’s website (you have to click on the link in the left menu).

In essence, The Rhesus Factor is an eco-thriller. Set in the near future when the Gulf Stream has stopped, climate change is decidedly noticeable and drug-resistant epidemics are sweeping the Earth. Since it was written about ten years ago, some of the technology of our very near future isn’t quite here (no space planes to hop across the pacific in a matter of hours, not even for the US Airforce) but some of her predictions are eerily true. There was a throwaway paragraph that included severe bushfires in southern Australia and Brisbane flooding, for example. Granted, those aren’t exactly outlandish predictions, and the Gulf Stream is still with us, but still, some of the crazy weather Whitelaw describes doesn’t feel like it’s as outlandish as it would have been ten years ago.

There was also this great line about the US congress which predicts a situation that has become slightly old news now:

“So you voted in a Democratic President—but hedged your bets with a Republican Congress that will not entertain any motion to install a fair and equitable health care system.”

Sound familiar?

Anyway, back to the story. The Rhesus Factor follows a handful of characters through dramatic* climate change, the discovery of a virus which is on track to sterilising 99% of humanity, terrorist attacks, and assorted other emergencies. Some of the characters are clearly there to demonstrate consequences to ordinary folk, but most of them play some sort of governmental role (including scientific research) in mitigating the damage. A nice touch, I thought, was that almost all of the characters were quite competent and none of the disasters were because of any one person stuffing up. They were all just sort of inevitable.

My favourite character, and the one I felt was the most developed, was Kristin: an Australian marine engineer, initially based in Vanuatu, who has the unfortunate luck to be present for almost all the on-page explosions. (There are a lot of explosions.) Her back story, complete with an ex-boyfriend who has the emotional intelligence of a wet rag, is well drawn and she’s not one of the people who knows everything up front, so it was nice to discover some of what was going on as she did. She also had a strong “Australian, no-nonsense” pragmatism which helped keep up the pace of the book (not that it was ever in any danger of dragging).

Another enjoyable character to read was the Australian Prime Minister. I suspect half the reason I liked him is because the world would be a better place if we had more political leaders that cut through bullshit and did what needed to be done. The other half is that his scenes — particularly some of the comments he makes when not in front of the press — were some of the most amusing and did a good job of diffusing some of the inherent doom of the novel. The most unbelievable aspect of both his character and the US President is that, before becoming politicians, both were scientists with ecology-related (I forget the specifics) PhDs. I just don’t really buy that they got elected, especially the President, but it’s a good thing for their world that they did.

I also enjoyed Australia being so central to many of the events taking place. Other prominent settings were Vanuatu and the US, but while the US was obligatory (greatest impact of Gulf Stream failure, powerful government), the Australian scenes were more lovingly carved. From the outback, down to Kristin complaining about Canberran weather.

The Rhesus Factor is a fast-paced, thriller crammed with one disaster after another. Set in the near future in a world a little bit more disease-ridden, with a slightly more altered climate than ours, it will keep you flipping/tapping the pages to find out what happens next. I should warn you though, Whitelaw set out to present a realistic picture of the near future. The only fabricated factor is, as the title will tell you, the Rhesus factor which acts as a catalyst for some disasters and an also-ran for others. There is no quick-fix offered in the novel and the ending isn’t exactly a happy one — though it is somewhat hopeful. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining and, if you’re into getting science out of your fiction, an educational# one.

4.5 / 5 stars

* I say dramatic because the Gulf Stream failed. It’s not quite Hollywood dramatic, if you’re wondering.

# Actually, The Rhesus Factor is available as a free pdf because at one point it was cited by an Australian MP in Queensland parliament for its realistic and alarming predictions.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge - Roundup 1

For those of you keeping track, you may have noticed that my purple progress bar on the left has filled up all the way, which means I have reached one of my goals for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Of course, I’m not going to stop here. For a start, my science fiction challenge is incomplete and for an end, I’m going to keep reading books by Australian women regardless, so I might as well continue keeping track in the spirit of the year.

So consider this the first roundup post of the year. I’m not sure how many I’ll end up with. At least three, I suppose (one for SF and probably another fantasy/misc one), but who knows what the rest of the year will bring.

Also, I know I’ve called it “Fantasy/Misc”, but really all the books on this list have some fantastic elements. A breakdown by subgenre would go something like this:

YA Fantasy

  • EonaEonEon and Eona by Alison Goodman — although as per my discussion in the review, I think they’re borderline YA/adult

  • Angel Arias by Marianne de Pierres — has science fictional elements but gothic fantasy sensibilities

Urban Fantasy

  • Spider GoddessBlood CountessThe Blood Countess and The Spider Goddess by Tara Moss — set in New York with vampires and other paranormal beings. You can’t get more urban than that

  • Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti — superheroes and most of the stories were set in Sydney

More difficult to classify fantasy


  • Hoodwink by Rhonda Roberts — it’s more noir crime time travel fiction, but I didn’t include it in my SF challenge because technology/other SF aspects aren’t central to the story at all

  • Debris by Jo Anderton — sort of steampunk except instead of further evolving steampunk tech, magic was discovered and used industrially

  • Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts — I’d call it high fantasy, but my personal definition of high fantasy doesn’t overlap with many other people’s. Also, it’s set in fantasy sort-of-Rome, so no pseudo British/French/German castles/knights/etc, which I’m told is refreshing (I tend to avoid a lot of traditional fantasy for reasons I’m not about to go into)
  • Thief of Lives by
    Lucy Sussex — two stories were fantasy, two were, um, what’s the word for non-genre? Contemporary? Literary? I don’t know. Well, one was crime (but not a mystery).
Books read in order with review links:

  1. Eon by Alison Goodman (review)

  2. Eona by Alison Goodman (review, same page as above)

  3. Hoodwink by Rhonda Roberts (review)

  4. Debris by Jo Anderton (review)

  5. The Blood Countess by Tara Moss (review)

  6. The Spider Goddess by Tara Moss (review)

  7. Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti (review)

  8. Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts (review)

  9. Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex (review)

  10. Angel Arias by Marianne de Pierres (review)
I’m pretty pleased that I’ve reviewed all the books so far. In the past, I haven’t really got into the swing of writing reviews so I wasn’t sure how that aspect of the challenge would go. I’m glad to report it wasn’t at all a chore.

Neither, of course, was reading the books. Really, for this category, this was less of a challenge than an excuse to buy some books. My SF challenge is more challenging, but mainly because there are fewer books to choose from (and more of the fantasy books are RIGHT THERE on my shelf already).

Here’s to the next ten books!

Angel Arias by Marianne de Pierres

Angel Arias by Marianne de Pierres is the sequel to the excellent YA gothic novel Burn Bright. Here is the blurb for Burn Bright from the series website (that .au is important, by the way):

Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure, experience and freedom.

But her brother Joel left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the intense pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra stows away on the barge that will take her to her brother.

When she can’t find Joel, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?

I really enjoyed Burn Bright and gave it 4.5 stars when I read it. My favourite aspects were Retra’s guts — she trains herself to endure pain to escape her ultra-conservative family! — and the world. Reading Angel Arias now, after having read a few other dystopian novels like Divergent (by Veronica Roth), I was struck by how much more organic the dystopia in de Pierres’ Night Creatures is. For example, in The Hunger Games, the inherent set up of the society leaves a lot of people miserable and, in my opinion, means that a revolution was inevitable, whether or not Katniss was present for it (to be fair, this is also implied in the books). However, in the mainstream society in the Night Creatures books, people on the surface aren’t so much oppressed as deeply religious and conservative. Yes, there’s more going on below the surface that we don’t learn about until later but still, aside from the odd geography, it feels like the sort of society that could arise naturally.

Sure, not everyone is happy, especially not some of the teenagers, but that’s why they run away to Ixion, to party in an endless night. In many ways, running away from familial restrictions is a very typical response and doesn’t feel at all forced. Even the secret messages in the music and in the banned propaganda is exactly the sort of thing teenagers would be into. Of course, not everything is as it seems (or there wouldn’t be much story) but it felt more plausible than, for example, the artificially divided society in Divergent.

Angel Arias picks up soon after Burn Bright left off. Retra, now calling herself Naif, scratched the surface of her world in Burn Bright and what she saw wasn’t quite what she expected. Now, she is determined to find out what’s going on and why.

I started reading Angel Arias about a year after I read Burn Bright and it took a little while for me to catch up with what was happening (mostly, I’d forgotten everyone’s names, so there were a few confused chapters in which I had to relearn who was who). There’s not many words wasted on introduction, so I recommend not waiting too long between books. (And the ending to Burn Bright should encourage you to pick up the next book quickly anyway.)

Angel Arias has more prolonged action than the first book and sort of less mystery. What I mean is, for most of the book, the same mysteries (about the world and about some the characters’ motivations) remain and the story focuses more on what I would loosely term an adventure. Some new characters are introduced and a vague (and non-YA-standard — Naif isn’t the apex) love triangle is set up.

I found the action portions of the novel (that is to say, all of it) well paced; it certainly had me turning the page and wondering who would get to the end of it unscathed. I was surprised at how much of the truth (probably) we learnt about the world by the end. I was expecting more mysteries to remain undiscovered until book three. That made it feel a little bit like Angel Arias was filling the gap between books one and three without spending quite as much time dwelling on the issues of identity and pleasure which were central to Burn Bright. On the other hand, that makes me hopeful that perhaps some of the other questions subtly hinted at in Angel Arias will be central to book three. I look forward to spending more time in the world.

I enjoyed Angel Arias but strongly recommend reading it after Burn Bright and not as a standalone. Book three, possibly called Blaze Dark, will hopefully be out by the end of the year (official release date TBC).

[Side note: I was originally going to count this towards the SF Australian Women Writers Challenge, because Burn Bright struck be as being more science fictional than magical, however. While I stand by that assessment, I feel the overall sensibilities aren’t strongly technological so I’ve decided to count Angel Arias towards my fantasy/misc AWWC.]

4 / 5 stars

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex

Thief of LivesThief of Lives, by Lucy Sussex is part of Twelfth Planet Press’s Twelve Planets collection. I have previously reviewed other Twelve Planets, Nightsiders by Sue Isles and Bad Power by Deborah Biaccotti.

Thief of Lives is a collection of four short stories without common setting. I have to admit, this collection was closer to literary realism than I usually read. Thematically, women are central to all the stories in a variety of different ways. Karen Joy Fowler eloquently explains what Sussex writes about in the introduction:

Fantasy, history, crime. The relationship of women to men. The relationship of women to women. The relationship of the writer to her subject.


The first story in this collection is set in ancient Babylon. It’s about the best perfumier in the city, one of the first chemists in the world. She is watched, throughout her life by an immortal who has singled her out the smartest person in Babylon and is fascinated by her mind.

The Fountain of Justice

This story can be most accurately described as crime. It’s set around underworld shootings in an Australian city (I would guess Melbourne, but I don’t think it ever said), and told from the point of view of a legal aid.

The Subject of O

This story is about the main character’s understanding of her sexual experiences, when she starts to see them in a new light.

Thief of Lives

The titular story was my favourite of the bunch. The main character is PA to a successful urban fantasy novelist who has been sent to Bristol to conduct some research. While there she discovers a psychic vampire preying on the town; a creature who sucks the life out of its victims before committing their lives to paper. It’s a fascinating exploration of writers drawing inspiration from their surroundings that interweaves reality and fantasy.


Twelfth Planet Press has been putting out some really excellent collections with their Twelve Planet series and I suspect I may end up buying and reading all twelve as they come out. (Four down, one to go and seven more yet to be published…)

4 / 5 stars

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the UniverseI picked up Across the Universe by Beth Revis after hearing lots of good things about it. I suspect these high expectations contributed in part to my not enjoying it quite as much as I’d hoped I would.

The premise of the story is: a generation ship is being sent to another planetary system. It will take 300 years to get there so the colonists are cryogenically frozen for the duration. One of the main characters, Amy, an American teenager from our near future, is coming along on the ship because her parents are crucial to the colonisation effort.

But Amy is woken up not on their new home, but fifty years before they land. Someone has tried to kill her by unplugging her. But why? Other frozen people aren’t as lucky as Amy when they’re mysteriously unplugged. Who is trying to kill the colonists and why? It’s bad enough that she’s on a ship with planetfall so distant, now Amy is desperate to find out who the murderer is before her parents are unplugged.

The other main character is Elder, around Amy’s age and destined to be future leader of the generation ship. He is under the tutelage of the current leader, Eldest, who is mean, dictatorial and has little faith in Elder’s leadership abilities. Like Amy, Elder also wants to find the murderer and prove to Eldest that he will be a good leader.

I wasn’t expecting this book to be quite as much of a dystopia as it was. I don’t want to spoil anything, but when she wakes up, Amy finds herself in a very different world, and not just because it’s a spaceship. All the people we relate to as normal are dubbed crazy and relegated to the psych ward and all the allegedly normal people act more or less like mindless drones. Why? Until Amy comes along, it doesn’t occur to Elder to question the state of things, but once he does, his perception of society quickly unravels.

Some interesting aspects of society are examined inAcross the Universe, for example what can happen when the dissemination of information and human history is strictly controlled. At one point, Amy is attacked and I thought the way that was handled in the text was very well done. She was traumatised and doesn’t just shake it off like a few too many books would have had her do.

On the other hand, one aspect that irritated me a little was related to Eldest being an unlikeable person and obviously a dishonest leader. I very much felt it was unnecessarily to compare him to Hitler to emphasise how unworthy of being admired he was. Yes, it also served the purpose of showing how Earth’s history had been re-written, but that was done elsewhere with other historical figures, so it just felt like lazy writing to invoke Hitler.

Although some aspects, like the above, were a bit heavy-handed, I enjoyed the general exploration of the sociological ramifications of the generation ship society. There were some secrets aboard ship that, as a reader familiar with dystopian concepts, I worked out before the main characters, but at no time were these drawn out tediously, which was nice.

One thing that really peeved me, however. It was the blatantly wrong science Revis chose to make vital to the plot. It made me angry. I can’t explain it without spoilers, but if you don’t mind being spoiled, I wrote a ranty detailed blogpost about it at my SF Writers’ Guide to Space blog.

Overall, I’m undecided as to whether to read the sequel. On the one hand, I am interested to read about the sociological implications of the events towards the end of the first book. On the other hand, I suspect my blinding rage against the sciencefail might mar the experience a little. It is remotely possible that Revis could redeem some of the science, but I don’t have much faith in that. I might decide after a) reading some reviews of A Million Suns and b) waiting a bit for the fury to die down.

3.5 / 5 stars

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Timeless by Gail Carriger

Timeless is Gail Carriger’s fifth and final instalment in the Parasol Protectorate series and what a delightful read it has been. For those of you unfamiliar with the setting, the Parasol Protectorate series is set in a Victorian steampunk London (mostly) in a world openly populated by vampires, werewolves and ghosts (the supernatural). Alexia, the main character, is a preternatural which means that her touch temporarily cancels out supernatural abilities and their accompanying immortality. And she probably doesn’t have a soul.

SPOILER WARNING: Minor spoilers in the form of which characters are alive/undead at the start of the fifth book after their lives/undeaths were threatened in previous books. Also a bit of a spoiler for part of the ending of Heartless, the previous book, which I will indicate with SPOILERCAPS. No spoilers for Timeless itself, however.


The cover proclaims that Timeless is “a novel of vampires, werewolves, and mummies” and it does not lie. We again meet Alexia and all our favourite characters from the earlier books and are introduced to Alexia’s daughter, Prudence, who is now two years old and quite the entertaining little toddler.

What I found most surprising was how much of the over-arching plot from the earlier books was pulled into this conclusion. Hanging threads I hadn’t even really noticed were hanging were neatly tied together along with seeds planted in earlier books. At the same time, this volume turns Alexia’s adventures into the perfect stage for Carriger’s next series in the same universe (Parasol Protectorate Abroad, due out in the latter part of next year), which I believe will follow Prudence at least in part.

So now, after mysteries which were simmering beneath the surface in the earlier books are brought to the fore, I am simply dying to know what happens next.

There is a lot of interesting character development in Timeless, in particular we see Biffy step further into the spotlight and gosh he is quite adorable. He is easily my favourite character in Timeless and I hope that when Carriger revisits the Parasol Protectorate world we’ll see more of him (which seems likely, really). I can’t say more without spoilers, but as my husband will attest, Biffy scenes frequently caused me to voice miscellaneous sounds of adoration.




Another interesting and slightly more subtle character development we see is Akeldama’s in his new role as Prudence’s adopted father. At first it seems as though things are ticking along as usual at the Akeldama household, but towards the end we see interesting new depths to the character whether he wants us to or not.




Have I mentioned I heart Biffy to bifs bits?

Anyway, Timeless is a hilarious manner-punk read in which, among other things, Alexia discovers that having a magic toddler can make propriety quite challenging. And that you can’t get a decent cup of tea in Egypt. I laughed out loud several times, I was moved by the sombre parts, wailing in disbelief at one point, and made many Biffy-adoring noises.

If you haven’t started reading the Parasol Protectorate books, I can’t imagine why not. Who doesn’t like hilarious steam-/manner-punk? If you have kept up with the series, get out and get your hands on Timeless by whatever (legal!) means necessary. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the series and an enticing set up for the next. And, quite frankly, don’t you want to read more of Alexia’s adventures?

5 / 5 stars