Book Review: Gail Carriger’s Heartless

Posted July 14, 2011 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Gail Carriger’s Heartless



Gail Carriger

steampunk that was published by Orbit on July 1, 2011 and has 374 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Timeless, Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies, Waistcoats & Weaponry, Manners & Mutiny, Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Prudence

Fourth in the Parasol Protectorate steampunk series set in a Victorian England.

My Take

This was too lovely for words. All the original Carriger back and more! I so adore how Carriger uses the manners, mores, and language of the day to create her stories then turn them on their heads with her witty and comic portrayal of Victorian etiquette.

For example, Alexia and Felicity have just escaped from a collapsing building and the biggest concern for everyone is when they…

…looked with deep concern at Alexia’s sorry state of dress, her bustle flattened, her hem filthy, her lacy trim soot-covered and burned.

“Bond Street?” suggested Tizzy seriously.

Alexia arched a brow. “Oh no, this is a profound clothing emergency.”

I don’t know if Heartless is such a treat because it is so well done or if the added frustration of pregnancy has made it so much more as we chuckle over the Victorians’ horror of…shudder…limbs and bodily functions. Lady Maccon’s pregnancy is absolutely fraught with snickers of disbelief and appreciation for the Victorian obsession against the so-very improper acknowledgement of one’s body.

Alexia is definitely a control freak, and it is amazing that she concedes to the Packs’ plan to protect her and the baby!

And it just gets better from here on out with Alexia trundling and toddling her way through one crisis after another being hefted to her feet every time she needs rise up. With Lord Akeldama gleefully anticipating the addition to his family. His drones dogging…oops, that’s Maccon’s wolves dogging Alexia. Akeldama’s drones hover and primp with timely rescues freely delivered.

The ending is inevitable as the Pack advances into the new urban age while Alexia has secrets to keep and losses to organize and sort.

It should be a fascinating new age what with Lord Akeldama’s background and the surprises the newly-arrived young Prudence evinces.

As far as I can recall, Heartless is the first story in which the Parasol Protectorate rises up. And so beautifully does it unfurl for Ivy! She’s in seventh heaven over it with her Puff Bonnet and the Ruffled Parasol.

The Story

The past rears its ugly head when Lady and Lord Maccon must investigate a ghost-stuttered tip regarding a looming assassination of the queen. Naturally, Alexia cannot resist leaping in to restore order. Despite the unending assassination attempts against her and the infant-inconvenience by the vampires. Despite being a humongous seven-months pregnant. Despite all of Conall’s efforts to baby the mother-to-be. And the past five months of bodyguarding efforts by the entire Woolsey Pack.

The Characters

Lady Alexia Tarabotti Maccon, a Lady and the muhjah on the Shadow Council to the Queen is one of the few Soulless. A being with no soul who believes only in logic and order. Her existence a weapon against the supernatural. She’s married to Lord Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey, who is the alpha for the Pack and head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR), which polices the supernatural community.

The Woolsey Pack is…
…based just outside of London with Professor Lyall as the Woolsey Pack beta with a possibly deadly secret. Functioning as Lady Maccon’s personal secretary and librarian, the inherited Floote returns to butling when the Pack moves to London to protect Alexia and her unborn child from vampire assassination attempts. After all, isn’t one soulless enough in the world?

Ivy Tunstall of the outrageously horrid hats has been Alexia’s best friend since childhood and is currently married to…shudders…an actor while Madame Genevieve Lefoux, a Frenchwoman, is the series inventor with a reputation for both incredibly inventive steam-powered devices, gadgets, and vehicles as well as utterly charming, stylish hats.

The vampires include…
Lord Akeldama with whom Ivy got on “like plaid and brocade, utterly incompatible even in complementary colors” is an old, old vampire rogue who leads society in fashion and manners with his own bevy of drones. And is one of Alexia’s best friends. Why, he’s even willing to give up one of his closets for her and her husband! He has also been appointed to the position of potentate on the Shadow Council after the previous occupant’s treachery and is positively renowned for the tidbits of information he acquires.

Biffy, a.k.a., Sandaio de Rabiffiano, is one of, or rather was, one of Lord Akeldama’s drones until he was bitten in Blameless, 3 and turned into a werewolf. Not adjusting to his new station in life, Lord and Lady Maccon are worried about Biffy’s transitioning and Lord Akeldama misses him. Although, he is making an excellent lady’s maid to Alexia. Much better at choosing flattering hairstyles and gowns than her previous French maid, Angelique, the traitor. Boots, a.k.a., Emmet Wilberforce Bootbottle-Fipps, is another of Lord Akeldama’s drones.

Countess Nadasdy, queen of the Westminster Hive of vampires, would dearly love to see the end of Alexia, and Lord Ambrose, her praetorianus, would be extremely interested in facilitating Alexia’s demise. Preferably before the Abomination is born.

The OBO, or Order of the Brass Octopus, is…
…an organization of scientists not kindly disposed to supernaturals whom we first encountered in Soulless, 1.

Felicity Loontwill, half-sister to Alexia, is a major pain and totally self-absorbed with a strong predilection for hurting others verbally. Quite uncharacteristically, Felicity begs Alexia to let her move into the Maccon’s London townhouse as she is embracing…well, she’s involved in…er, don’ch’a know, um, Womens’ Suffrage. And it must be true as Felicity is dressing, well, common.

The Shadow Council is a secret group of three charged with maintaining civil relations amongst and between the supernatural groups and reporting to the Queen. It consists of the dewan, the muhjah, and the potentate or a werewolf, soulless, and vampire.

The Cover

The cover feels different from the earlier ones. Alexia is much more three-dimensional in her purple attire jauntily tipping her chapeau as she poses with her parasol before Woolsey Castle.