Blameless is Gail Carriger’s third installment in her Parasol Protectorate series, also known as the Alexia Terrabotti novels. It was published by Orbit in 2010 and is the follow up to Changeless.
Blameless really opens in the last chapter of Changeless with the news that Alexia Macoon, née Terrabotti, is pregnant. While this would normally be an occasion of joy, Alexia’s husband, being a werewolf, is sterile. Conal Macoon is as angry as only an alpha werewolf can be, and throws Alexia out. Queen Victoria, that paragon of morality, removes Alexia from her position on the Shadow Council, and Alexia’s family would really rather this scandal found somewhere else to hang its hat. Alexia flees England with her ever loyal butler Floote and recent friend Madame Lafoux to make her way to Italy, where the still active Knights Templar may be the only people who know just how she managed to get pregnant with a werewolf’s child.
One crazy adventure
One of the highlights of Blameless is that the author expands the world beyond Britain and the Empire it built with the help of werewolves and vampires. Now Carriger takes us to France and Italy, where supernatural beings are in a very different position in society. In light of Alexia’s scandal, she spends much of her time in this book with Madame Lefoux’s mad scientist friends rather than among werewolves or vampires. We get to see multiple scientists in roles other than villains, which is a welcome change and a nice contrast to the supernatural culture Britain is steeped in. We also get inside the headquarters of the Knights Templar and finally find out some solid information about Alexia’s father. Alexia has spent the last two books so steeped in the supernatural that it was nice to find the world outside of fangs and claws.
Don’t forget those left at home
You have to feel sorry for Professor Lyall, Conal’s beta, in this book. He gets stuck not only dealing with a highly inebriated alpha, but also having almost complete responsibility for the secondary plot of the book. Because of Conal’s constant stupor, it is Lyall who becomes the book’s second protagonist, holding down the fort back home while Alexia searches for answers. Lyall is up for the challenge though, and I enjoyed learning more about him as a character.
Good points and bad points
Carriger’s trademark wit, biting humor, and love of Victorian absurdities are present here as in her earlier works. She improves her pacing, and the main plot and the subplot are satisfactorily hefty and rewarding. Her writing mechanics are brilliant as always, but her character development is starting to show signs of distress. The relationship between Aleixa and Conal has been central for the series, and they only interact at the very end of this book. On top of that, the interactions they do share are unfulfilling for the reader. No matter how much page time is given to Floote and Madame Lefoux, I don’t feel like we get to know either of them. At least on Floote’s part, I expect part of this is the author’s design. But there is a difference between being mysterious and being a near cipher.
Why you should read this book
On the whole, I greatly enjoyed this book. In terms of plot and pacing, I think Carriger has really hit her stride. This is a fun adventure novel that includes a ride through Paris on an ornithopter, religious zealots, and killer ladybugs. However, at this point in the series the plot is too complicated for the reader to walk into without reading at least one of the previous novels. Carriger does not backtrack and does not leave clues as to what came before. She hits the ground running and never looks back.