Gail Carriger – Author Review
Gail Carriger is an amazing author of highly entertaining Victoria Steampunk novels. To date I have read both the adult and young-adult, all of which take place in the same world – England mostly.
What I absolutely love about her work is the quirky way she has of using words. Carriger does not shy away from the use of a larger vocabulary often ignored by current fantasy authors. She pairs descriptors in absurd ways that still function most hilariously. It is absolutely the very best thing about her books – her writing.
The names in her works have become increasingly ridiculous – and thus increasingly amusing to pronounce. For example in the young adult books about finishing school we have Professor Shrimpdittle and Lord Dingleproops. Not all the names are so over the top to make reading them an entire distraction. She does strike a balance between the outrageous and slightly less exotic.
As for the stories themselves – well I certainly enjoyed them, but they are far from perfect. Really, have you ever read a book that didn’t have at least one thing you would change? In this case I sometimes struggle with the amazingly fantastical nature of the technology. The first series, The Parasol Protectorate, had a new automaton creature each book: swarms of lady bugs and needle shooting hedgehogs come to mind first. I suppose it would be less of a bother if she didn’t try to explain each one with science – the humanoid with clockwork gears and thick greasy blood covered in a wax skin was particularly cumbersome.
Another aspect I completely disapprove of is the direct interactions with Queen Victoria. I am really not fond of authors involving actual people in their fantasy stories. Of course, I would prefer if the author would simply make up their own world, similar in flavour and style but different in name, history (which it already is) and people (no actual historical figures present please). It is often jarring to read.
Actually, one of the neat things about her books was the use of the supernatural – which should be nothing but silly. I don’t know why all steampunk must feel the need to include Vampires and Werewolves and the like. However, I did appreciate the way it was dealt with in these books. The supernatural was in the process of being incorporated into society – it was used to explain some of the social rules that govern that time period. It was interesting the way the characters of the time tried to use science to explain the supernatural around them – in this case an excess of soul. But what was best about the explanation, it was done in such a way the author could use a completely different one as the technology and science evolved over time. After all scientific views are not static in the least. It was also impressive the way different people viewed the supernatural – some clearly supported and emulated them, others tried to hunt them down and kill them. There was a healthy mix of both, with a clear bias leaning in favour of the main character.
Both heroines are adorable. They are spunky, go-get-them types that work to some degree within the confines of their social world. Again, the writing is immensely entertaining when it comes to the dialogue and the frequently outrageous clothes donned by several of the secondary characters.
The young adult stories – Finishing School series – predate the events of the Parasol Protectorate series. It is interesting to see the author’s struggles with technology. The Finishing School – located on a dirigible and staffed by clockwork servants – seems almost more advanced than the more typical housing arrangements of the Parasol Protectorate, so I am curious as to how she will explain some of its loss.
Those reading both series will find that some overlap in characters. Though they are not primary characters, some are strong secondary ones. Also, the Finishing School series has a much lighter, faster and more youthful feel to it which is appropriate to the audience. Again, because of the brilliant writing, it is still wonderfully entertaining to older audiences.
So, for those that like well written books of the supernatural steampunk persuasion I would highly recommend Gail Carriger. Both the young-adult and adult books are instantly captivating. The element of the absurd is laugh-out-loud fun and the characters are ridiculously engaging. This is not your average fluff fantasy, this is perfectly written entirely diverting fluff.
The Parasol Protectorate stars Alexia Tarabotti in five novels.
Soulless – In which the intrepid heroine accidently kills a vampire and becomes embroiled in a plot to manufacture the supernatural.
Changeless – In which our heroine is forced by circumstances from the comforts of fashionable London to the uncivilized backwaters of wild Scottish highlands.
Blameless – In which the practical heroine must flee homicidal mechanicals for the dubious safety of Italy.
Heartless – In which family and history clash and ghosts request our heroine’s aid.
Timeless – In which the story of supernaturals and our heroine’s own extended family (including their histories) are explained, if not by science, then by their limitations in the exotic lands of Egypt.
Finishing School stars Sophronia Temminnick in four novels (two of which have been published to date).
Etiquette & Espionage – In which our fearless heroine discovers mysterious going-ons at a rather atypical floating finishing school.
Curtsies & Conspiracies – In which our crafty heroine continues her studies into the nefarious practices of poison and deportment.