Here are some things I enjoy, in no particular order:
- London, especially Victorian London
- alternate realities
- a dose of steampunk
- sassy heroines
Lucky for me, The Parasol Protectorate series includes all those things and more!
Miss Alexia Tarabotti is soulless. No, she's not an exceptionally cruel person; rather, she was literally born without a soul. As such, when supernaturals touch her, they temporarily lose their powers as long as they make contact: vampire fangs disappears, werewolves shift back to their human form.
For the most part, Alexia flounces around in society as an "old maid" with her best friend Ivy who has a penchant for unfortunate hats, takes tea with the flamboyant (and hilarious) vampire Lord Akeldama, and often finds herself in compromising situations with the attractive Scottish werewolf Alpha, Lord Conall Maccon.
Scottish. Werewolf. As my sister said, could they BE any hotter??
Alexia is a fantastic character. Yes, she's a spinster (at twenty-six!), but that doesn't stop her from looking fabulous at all times. She's also real in that she likes food (me too!), and would rather come off as rude than continue to starve herself, which is the reason she gets in trouble in the first chapter. She's also pretty badass in her own way: whether it's her lethal parasol, or her preternatural abilities, or the fact that she can twist Lord Maccon around her pinky finger, even though he's still smarting from the "hedgehog incident".
While Alexia and Lord Maccon clearly run this ship, the secondary characters are just as colourful. I wouldn't mind reading whole scenes or books from their POVs.
The writing is witty, the characters are quirky, the clothing is sumptuous, and the octupuses are plentiful (but what do they mean??). And the world is built up well, integrating steampunk elements without losing the plot or becoming confusing.
This is the sexy older sister of Page Morgan's The Dispossessed series, minus the gargoyles (I'm really hoping gargoyles show up later). It's what The Infernal Devices could have been if Cassandra Clare was a better writer, I mean, if she wrote "adult" instead of YA. In short, this is EXACTLY the type of urban fantasy romance I love, and it absolutely did not disappoint.
In fact, I think the only reason I gave it 4.5 stars instead of a solid 5 stars was because part of the ending confused me (granted, I was reading on the bus and the people beside me were having an intense conversation, so it's possible I was just distracted).
I'm already looking forward to the rest of Alexia's adventures, and Gail Carriger's other series.