“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances – names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?
First disclaimer: I absolutely adored Gail Carriger’s first series, The Parasol Protectorate, which is (so to speak) the parent of her new series, The Custard Protocol.
Second disclaimer: I felt mostly led down by the author’s YA series (The Finishing School), which was published in between these two, and in fact I did not continue reading past the first book.
So where do I stand in terms of Prudence?
One could not blame a people for disliking vampires. Vampires were like Brussels sprouts — not for everyone and impossible to improve upon with sauce. There were even those in London who disapproved of Dama, and he was very saucy indeed.
Like Brussels sprouts and vampires, I’m afraid that Prudence isn’t for everyone… and sadly, it ended up not really being for me. Even with sauce.
I had very high hopes. The character Prudence is the metanatural offspring of the unforgettable Alexia Tarabotti, heroine of the Parasol Protectorate books, and her ultra-sexy (and furry) Scottish werewolf husband, Conall Maccon. Prudence is also the adopted daughter of fan favorite Lord Akeldama, a highly fashionable vampire who has an impeccable sense of proper social behavior and expects his little ward to always be appropriately attired.
In the novel, Prudence (who prefers Rue, thank you very much) almost immediately takes to the air on board her very own dirigible (painted to resemble a giant ladybug), along with her best friend Primrose (that would be Ivy Hisselpenny’s daughter, for you PP fans), Prim’s twin brother Percy, and Quesnel, a dashing young man with the most exquisite violet eyes. Off they float to India, encountering along the way a variety of shapeshifters, troublesome (and unattractive) vampires, and all sorts of officials who keep getting in their way. Our intrepid little crew has a jolly time dodging danger, solving mysteries, and having many cups of tea. This being a steampunk world, there are also lots of gadgets and gizmos, steam-powered elephant head trams, and a challenging journey through the aetherosphere.
I could tell it wasn’t quite gelling for me by the very fact that I seemed to constantly find other things to do rather than read. There’s nothing terribly wrong with Prudence… but it really felt like just more of the same to me. It’s all very quippy and sharp:
“Yes, Lady Captain?”
“Keep an eye to the accessories, please. There may be a lioness around with a taste for parasols.”
“Is that some kind of code, Lady Captain?”
“My dear young man, I only wish it were.”
There are lots of detailed descriptions of the clothes and the machinery — but it just doesn’t feel new any more. The characters here are mildly entertaining, but there are only the briefest glimpses of Alexia and Conall, and the younger generation simply can’t hold a candle to them. It’s fun to see Lord Akeldama and some of the familiar werewolves again, but this story is really about Rue and company, and I didn’t find their characters particularly compelling or engaging.
Will I read the next book in the series (Imprudence, scheduled for release in 2016)? Let’s put it this way: If someone hands me a copy, or if I happen to see it at the library on a day when I’m in between books, then sure, I’ll give it a go. But I definitely don’t feel the need to track it down the second it’s released, and if I don’t read it, that’s okay too.
I know people have asked whether this book is for adults or young adults. My answer is — I don’t know. I believe the book is being marketed as adult fiction, but with 20-year-old main characters having very larky adventures and only a hint of romance and future lustiness, it could really go either way.
Listen, this book may absolutely delight many, many readers. For me personally, it felt like a much-anticipated visit back to a cherished vacation spot… only to find upon arrival that it’s not quite as delightful the second time around. Prudence doesn’t tread enough new ground or have characters who grab me enough to make the repeat visit to this world feel fresh.
Gail Carriger is an amazing writer with a flair for funny one-liners and a talent for inventing worlds that seem familiar but are most decidedly other. I hope that she’ll create new worlds to delight us with in the future, and I look forward to reading about them when she does.
Author: Gail Carriger
Publication date: March 17, 2015
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Steampunk, adult/young adult fiction