I have a soft spot for history, always love to read about it and totally don’t discriminate over which era or storyline it’s set in. So imagine my excitement when last Saturday night (because what else would I be doing on a Saturday night) I found this series, The Parasol Protectorate. Set in the 19th Century in London it follows the adventures and mishaps of a Miss Alexia Tarabotti. She is a spinster, an Italian with an apparently too prominent nose, a preternatural amongst humans, vampires, werewolves and ghosts. Being preternatural, her touch can ‘neutralize’ supernaturals back to human, another characteristic of being preternatural….she has no soul.
In Soulless, the first book of the series it sets a lot of the groundwork, background and character building for the series. The main story revolves around missing vampires, appearing vampires, agencies trying to get it all under control, scientists trying to experiment every way they can and Alexia being dragged into the middle of all of it.
I have to admit for the first 4 or so chapters I was wondering whether I was really going to get into this book. It was a pleasant enough read but I hadn’t been gripped into that ‘must read can’t put it down state.’ That changed soon enough. I was hooked. Alexia, the type of girl we think we would totally be if we were living in that world, wearing that many petticoats and dresses, fainting at this that and the other and worrying that someone might see our knees…. There was a description at one point about her that secured her as a kindred spirit to me:
“Miss Tarabotti, once composed, was generally of a peckish proclivity”
Food lover. What more can I say! Any girl, who orders food at a ball from the butler because there were no snacks, is a friend of mine.
The use of terms, language and niceties from that era mixed with the comedic relief of a girl who followed her own tangent wove to create a really unique character and reading experience. Yes I had to concentrate more to follow the story, but if it hadn’t been written in the tone correct for its time then the story wouldn’t have been nearly half as good. For example, From Alexia’s mother:
“You must make him marry her! Call for the parson immediately! Look at them… they are…” she sputtered, “canoodling!”
And from Alexia’s storyline:
To put the pudding in the puff: she had retreated to the library, her favourite sanctuary in any house, only to happen upon an unexpected vampire. She glared at the vampire. For his part, the vampire seemed to feel that their encounter had improved his ball experience immeasurably. For there she sat, without escort, in a low-necked ball gown.
As for the other characters, which include, Lord Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey (Alpha Werewolf) Professor Lyall (Beta Werewolf) Lord Akeldama (Probably the most flamboyant Vampire of those times) and that creepy automaton (I still cannot get this things description out of my head) They were all written with such distinct characteristics and voices that there was no chance of one blending into another. Lord Maccons character does follow the general lead male gist and his and Alexia’s storyline does go much as you would expect it to in the paranormal romance genre but it was well balanced, fun and for those times, very very outrageous! (Far too much canoodling you could say!)
It was one of those nice quick reads you could get through in a couple of nights or less. Maybe a bit slow to get into but definitely worth it and riveting once you were in deep enough. So all and all, my history loving geek self and my urban fantasy geek self are both pretty pleased with what my Saturday night self picked. Even if you’re not sure about reading about petticoats, bloomers and proper manners, think about giving it a try. The humour and characters have a lot to give.
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