Author: Gail Carriger
Series: The Parasol Protectorate #4
Published: 1 July 2011 by Orbit
Length: 385 pages
Other info: The others in the series are Soulless, Changeless, Blameless and Timeless. There is a graphic novel adaptation of Soulless. Gail is working on The Finishing School series for young adults.
Summary : Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant. Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf's clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama's second best closet?
Review: So, Alexia's baby's nearly due, and they have to find somewhere for her to live. Luckily, Lord Akeldama agrees to take the child in, leading to arguements in various forms. In other news, there's a plan to kill the Queen and the only source of info is a fading ghost, and Madame Lefoux seems to be building something that really has nothing to do with hats.
From start to finish, I was laughing. The first paragraph was enough to set me off, and seeing as I started Heartless in the middle of a bookstore, I got quite a few strange looks from those who couldn't understand what was so good. Poor them.
Alexia's pregnancy seems to have made her even more sharp and strong willed, much to the exasperation of the three men who are most heavily involved in her life. Their traits too have gone to the next level, with Conall being more irritable at little things in a comical way, Lyall being more organised and ready for everything, and Akeldama being nope...Akeldama. If you've read these books, you'll know.
Lyall gets a huge amount of backstory revealed. As well as the plot to bring Conall to Woolsey, we also delve into Lyall's personal life. This leads to me shipping LyallxBiffy for all it's worth, as well as putting Alexia in an awkward situation regarding her husband's best friend and her father.
After gallavanting off to Scotland and Italy, it's nice to return back to the more familiar London. Madame Lefoux's steampunk designs are a huge part in Heartless, with a dramatic showdown near the end. We got good insight into (vampire) hive dynamics, and ends with some very unexpected events.
I love Alexia's fighting spirit. Throughout, she's almost into labour (and actually is in labour by the end). But she still keeps going, regarding her child as, while it is still inside her, a minor inconvenience.
Gail's writing is a bit more mature, featuring a lot of more adult references. Conall's attempt to phrase why Lyall and Biffy would not make a good couple ("both too much the Beta") is particularly note worthy, as are half the things that Akeldama comes out with. It's not enough to mark this as 18 and over, but for innocent little people, some things may go over their heads. And as always, there's the wordy jokes and sarcasm and general attitudes of the characters that make this a thoroughly enjoying read.
Important to note-at a gathering with London's important vampires, when a giant octopus is on the march, treacle tart is the thing most deserving of protection.
Overall: Strength 5 tea to the most engaging, most interesting, and by far the most fun book in the series so far.