Changeless by Gail Carriger
Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate)
We often think of creatures such as werewolves and vampires as beings with no souls.
Gail Carriger starts with a very different premise: These supernatural entities began with more soul than normal human beings. What, then, happens to someone with no soul?
Changeless is the second novel featuring soulless protagonist Alexia Maccon.
Alexia’s marriage to Lord Conall Maccon, an alpha werewolf, has been a loving if tumultuous match. She recently has been appointed muhjah, soulless advisor to Queen Victoria. One of Alexia’s closest friends is not only a vampire, but a skilled spymaster. But although the “sundowners” no longer are in hiding, not everyone accepts them.
And now a new weapon may be able to neutralize them.
One dark night in London, something exorcises all local ghosts and prevents werewolves from changing. This phenomenon abates within hours, but leaves the lingering fear that someone has developed a way to render supernaturals helpless. When Conall disappears into Scotland, the effect seems to follow him.
So does Alexia, determined to solve the problem and discover what her wayward husband has gotten himself into this time.
It’s always a pleasant surprise when an author’s writing skill visibly improves, and that’s definitely true of Carriger. The minor annoyances of the previous novel are almost totally absent here. Changeless, while not taking itself too seriously, achieves the desired balance of humor and plot that occasionally was absent in its predecessor.
The use of names also is more reader-friendly: Rather than jumping back and forth between “Alexia” and “Lady Maccon,” the name-swapping is kept to a minimum.
Plotwise, Carriger is building a story arc that should span several books. While this makes it difficult for new readers to jump into the middle, loyal readers will be rewarded. Carriger’s world-building follows in the footsteps of popular authors such as Jim Butcher.
Carriger is up for this year’s Campbell Award, and her first two novels give ample reason for this honor. Changeless isn’t only an example of improved writing, it’s a glimpse into a fascinating world that one hopes to see more of.
I eagerly anticipate the next installment, Blameless, when it arrives in September.
This review originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on April 15, 2010.