BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Prudence, the daughter of Lady Alexia Maccon and werewolf alpha, Conall Maccon from the Parasol Protectorate series, starts adventures of her own in this exciting and lush steampunk jaunt to India.
PROS: Exciting new characters, the return of beloved favorites, interesting new steampunk location, expanded series mythology, tons of intrigue and comedy with that patented Carriger touch.
CONS: A little on the short side, might be a little hard for people new to the series to hop into.
BOTTOM LINE: Prudence is the beginning of a third series in Gail Carriger’s outstanding Soulless universe and it builds on their greatness. It’s a fantastic first outing and I can’t wait for more.
I’ve always been a fan of Gail Carriger’s work. She writes with the wit of an Algonquin Round Table member mixed with the sensibilities of a Victorian dame angling for the best spot in Almack’s. Each book is a perfect concoction of adventure, steampunk and the finest comedy of manners this side of Oscar Wilde. Her characters are both larger than life and instantly relatable. She wields a polite social comment like some people wield a machine gun. Her two prior series, the Parasol Protectorate and the Finishing School series, are lively, engaging, hilarious adventures and I am pleased to say that the first book in the Custard Protocol completely lives up to them in spades.
One of the absolute best things about Carriger’s books is how they weave and twist together so effortlessly. Characters drift in and out of the different, interlocked series and it’s always a delight to see them or spot a call back. Many of Carrgier’s characters are immortal vampires and werewolves, so they nimbly dance between books no matter how much time passes between volumes. This is one of the many things that makes Prudence a real delight. There is nothing better than catching a glimpse of a favorite character and seeing how they are doing now. Fans of the Parasol Protectorate will be glad to hear that Professor Lyall and Biffy both make appearances. Lord Akeldama, unquestionably the favorite in every series, is also a huge part of the book.
Prudence is a special kind of supernatural. Her mother was soulless and could turn immortals mortal with a touch. Prudence does her one better and turns them mortal and steals their shape. With just a touch she can become a werewolf or vampire and reap the benefits of the form. There are limitations and they’re used for both comedy and suspense. It was an interesting new way to view the immortals in the series and they reacted with both fright and resigned indifference. She’s a little like Rogue from the X-Men and even an accidental brush of skin steals the shape of the lucky immortal.
Lord Akeldama, who helped raise her, sends her off to India to find a new breed of tea. She’s joined by the children of characters from her other series, setting up a whole new enchanting group. This first volume is very much setting up the foundation of future books. Prudence gets her own dirigible and a mapcap crew, two things that will surely carry the series along in future volumes (both figuratively and literally). It also sets up an exciting new bit of mythology to explore, since the book reveals that there are more immortals out there than just werewolves and vampires.
Prudence is a complete delight. It’s funny, smart and completely aware of how absurd it can be. Carriger uses her new characters with aplomb and leads them on a wild goose chase that nearly becomes all out war. It’s fascinating to see former main characters through the eyes of a new group. Lady Alexia Maccon is especially interesting to see through her daughters eyes. The headstrong, overly manners-conscious former protagonist becomes a matronly Queen Victoria-esque character who chides her daughter and seems completely at wit’s end on how to deal with her. I was especially amazed by what a difference this new point of view made and it’s especially rewarding if you’re a longtime fan of Carriger’s works.
Prudence is an absolutely topping start to a new series and I couldn’t be more excited to see what happens next. It was great to see old favorite characters and fall in love with new ones. I’m interested to see where this new expanded mythology takes the series. This is a worthy new addition to the Soulless universe, chocked full of enough charm to choke a werewolf and with enough outrageous comedy to make even the most severe vampire tear a waistcoat laughing.