I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves for almost a year now. I came across Soulless, the first book in The Parasol Protectorate series quite by accident last September. I read and enjoyed the book and immediately ordered in the other two currently available books. Unfortunately, Blameless, the third book in the series, was delivered first and Changeless was to be delayed by up to a week. I wanted another fix and I couldn’t be bothered to wait a week, so I decided I would read books 2 and 3 in the wrong order. Even more unfortunately, I did not like Blameless at all. This put me off the mere idea of reading Changeless and consequently it has been shunned, ignored on my shelves. Until now.
The only reason I picked up this book now is because the fourth book in the series, Heartless, was recently released and for some reason I will not pretend to understand, I immediately snapped up a copy of the book. Before delving into Heartless I wanted to know the events of all the previous books so I chose to ignore my trepidation and give Changeless a whirl…
Presentation: Mass market paperback. There are 374 pages broken down into 14 chapters. The chapters tend to be touching on the long side at approx. 30 pages each.
Story: Lady Alexia Maccon, formerly Alexia Tarabotti, wakes up one evening to find a werewolf army regiment camped on her front lawn, a rude Gamma not aware of her status, and central London hit by some form of “humanisation” epidemic. The vampires and the werewolves are frantic, and Alexia, as Muhjah to the queen, has to get to the bottom of this riddle. When, the next day, she finds that her husband, the Alpha werewolf Conall Maccon, has left for Scotland and his previous, currently Alpha-less pack whom he deserted some twenty years previously, Alexia is notified that this humanisation epidemic is also heading north. Putting two and two together, she realises that whatever is causing the problem must be in the hands of the Kingair pack, the pack her husband is going to sort out.
Seeing no other option, Alexia immediately plans to fly to Scotland on the next dirigible out of London… unfortunately for her, she has quite the entourage foisted upon her before she can leave: Tunstell, her husband’s claviger (a werewolf’s ‘personal servant’) and actor; her insipid and shallow sister, Felicity; and her airhead of a best friend, Miss Ivy Hisselpenny . On top of this already impressive entourage, a new acquaintance, the daring Madame Lefoux, French inventor who dresses like a man, seems to be following them on their trip up north.
But Alexia has no time to worry about this. There is a mystery, and the soulless Alexia needs to get to the bottom of it!
Thoughts and impressions: I like the idea behind this series. Basically, Alexia is a preternatural (as opposed to a supernatural). She has no soul and her touch causes a supernatural to temporarily become human again (or in the case of a ghost, exorcises it). Only people with a natural overabundance of soul can become supernatural (werewolf, vampire or ghost). Due to her lack of soul, Alexia is very pragmatic and can only accept logical answers, being unable to take anything on faith.
The book is not meant to be taken seriously, and it is intended to be humour. I think it’s intended to be British humour, but it’s not. There are very few laugh out loud moments (I think I only laughed out loud once during the whole of Changeless) and the humour often feels forced. It’s good that it’s light, but sometimes it takes the lightness too far and in this case it meant that the story didn’t become interesting for a long time. It took me a whole week to read this book – six days to read the first 174 pages, an evening to finish off the last 200. Once it got to the point where it was interesting, the plot worked quite well, though the villain was obvious and the source of the humanisation problem evident to the reader a good while before Alexia figured it out.
There wasn’t enough Lord Akeldama in this book. He lightens things, plus, who can resist a who-knows-how-old vampire with openly ‘flowery gay’ mannerisms? Not I.
Warning: there’s a cliffhanger ending to this one so you’ll want Blameless at the ready to pick up as soon as you’re done with it.
Style: I hate all the Americanisms in the writing when there is an obvious effort to make the speech sound period British (though the author fails at this too from time to time and uses blatantly modern American language.) As mentioned, the humour often feels forced and though I appreciate the lightness of the book I do not find it all that funny. I will expand on this point in the review of Heartless.
As a side note, I find it an insult to Jane Austen to compare this work with hers. This work is mediocre at best. Jane Austen’s is an excellent commentary on the society of her era.
Final verdict: The story took too long to get interesting; the lightness was sometimes too light, detracting from the plot; and it just didn’t appeal to me in the way the first book did. Admittedly, I may have gone into this book with some prejudices considering my dislike of Blameless (if I had to read about a British aristocrat talking about “ladybugs” one more time I was going to blow my top) but I still did not really like this one. 2 stars.
Extra notes: Occasional language, though it stays on the light side; several intimate scenes, though it fades out before sex takes place. I would recommend for older teens and up.