Gail Carriger’s Changeless is the second book in Parasol Protectorate, a steampunk mystery series following the adventures of Alexia Terrabotti Maccoon, a soulless woman who has the rare ability to nullify the supernatural powers of creatures like werewolves and vampires.
Soulless, Carriger’s debut, finishes with the wedding of Alexia to werewolf Conal Maccoon. Changeless opens three months later, as vampires and werewolves all over London mysteriously lose their supernatural abilities. In her new role as Mujah on the Shadow Council to Queen Victoria, and as the only person known to be able to do anything even remotely like this, Alexia is assigned to figure out what is going on.
A marked departure from the first book
Soulless is, at its core, a romance. Changeless is closer to a true mystery than its predecessor, and does not have a romance. For much of the book, Alexia and Conal are in separate places doing separate things, so their relationship is not in the forefront of this book like it was in Soulless. Carriger also spends some time doing the worldbuilding she needed to do to support a series rather than a stand-alone novel. A large chunk of Conal’s backstory is explored, and additional information on preternaturals is revealed through Alexia’s investigations. A number of comedic subplots are also present, some of which introduce some wonderful new secondary characters while reintroducing some familiar faces.
While all of these things are entertaining, I felt that overall the main plot of the book suffered for it. Where Soulless had good pacing and a lot of wonderful plot twists, Changeless feels almost bloated because of the relative simplicity of the main plot compared to its length. So much of what is accomplished in this book could have been done faster. Granted, if it had been done faster we wouldn’t learn nearly as much about Alexia’s world as we do, but in my opinion worldbuilding needs to support the plot, not the other way around.
A word of warning
If you hate cliffhangers and don’t have the third book, Blameless, on hand, do not read the last chapter of Changeless or the excerpt from Blameless in the back of the book. In many ways, the first chapter and the main hook for Blameless are placed at the end; Changeless actually resolves in the second to last chapter. For me, the last chapter ruined much of that resolution I want at the end of the book and left me with a great deal of frustration, as I first read this novel months before Blameless was released. And just as in Soulless, this book is not for the faint of vocabulary. Don’t pick this up unless you like learning new words and are entertained by searching your dictionary.
Why you should read this book
If you enjoyed Soulless, you’re likely to enjoy this book as well. It’s a funny and refreshing addition to the steampunk genre, with spoofs of British costume dramas, mysteries, and steampunk itself everywhere. Highly entertaining, Changeless will have you laughing at Carriger’s impeccable puns and observations of Victorian society.