Cast out from polite society through baseless accusations by her, somewhat drunk, husband, Lady Maccon flees to her family and then to Europe as polite society shuns her in Blameless with Floote and the inimitable Madame Lefoux. Even Lord Akeldama appears to have abandoned her in all his Wildean glory.
She travels to Paris, finding it disappointingly similar to London, and then Nice via ornithopter. A member of the Order of the Brass Octopus, Mme Lefoux introduces Alexia to a strange and screwy set of inventors before supernatural intrusions force her onwards to the Templars in Italy.
Carriger continues developing the arguments about science, religion and superstition. Mr Lange-Wilsdorf in his blind faith, mixes the science and religion together in an equally blind fashion to help the Templars. He reduces Alexia to being the Female Specimin, attempting to remove her humanity and personality. When they meet the Templars, Mme Lefoux is similarly sidelined for non-conformity (as well as the Templars’ own zeal in their purpose). In all three books, and probably the next two, Carriger is looking for a balance.
Equally her exploration of women continues with Alexia cutting her own path through society. When her husband finally sobers up, and is forced to confront his own inadequecies by his Beta, he chases across to Italy to ask her back home, having already sent Major Channing to protect her. He forces her to realise that she has created her own Parasol Protectorate.
Meanwhile, Lord Maccon and his Beta, Professor Lyall, are trying to figure out what is happening in London. Alexia has been removed from her post with the Queen and the intercepted messages from the vampire suggest a deeper conspiracy. The chase leads to a tragedy which potentially imperils werewolf and vampire relations.
Whilst the books do not really challenge Victorian imperialism (Michael Moorcoock raised this as an issue in steampunk – perhaps in the Hari Kunzru interview in the Guardian) but they do reflect the role of women in society. Carriger enjoys using the Bluestockings and New Women with Mme Lefoux and Alexia doing their own things and running their own lives in differing ways.
I’m waiting patiently for Heartless which is due out in July which looks like it is going to carry on with our heroine’s protectorate expanding and society changing.
Further posts about Gail Carriger‘s books.