Books : reviews

Gail Carriger.
The Heroine's Journey.
self. 2020

What is the Heroine's Journey? How is it different from the Hero's Journey? What makes Harry Potter different from Star Wars? Twilight from Wonder Woman?

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Gail Carriger uses her comedic style to explore the mythological foundation of one of the most joyful and powerful matrative structures we have access to as storytellers. She teaches how to identify, write, and utilize the heroine's journey to recover from writer's block.

Fix your story

Explore hidden messages. Learn hacks and tips to improve your writing and make at more commercially viable. Gain insight into under-studied story arcs, tropes, characters, archetypes, and modern market desires.

Change your perspective

Guaranteed to make you look at plot structure in books, video games, movies, and TV differently for the rest of your life. Take control of narrative while redefining notions of strength and identity. This book will change how you write, read, watch, interact, and think about genre fiction and the world around you.

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2015

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama is bequeathed an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female under similar circumstances would do – she christens it The Spotted Custard and floats off to India.

Soon, she 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), Rue must rely on her good breeding – and her metanatural abilities – to get to the bottom of it all…

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2016

The crew of The Spotted Custard returns from India with revelations that shake the foundations of England’s scientific community…

Queen Victoria is not amused, the vampires are tetchy and something is wrong with the local werewolf pack. To top it all off, Rue’s best friend Primrose keeps getting engaged to the most unacceptable military types.

Rue has family problems as well. Her vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is crazy and her obstreperous mother is both. Worst of all, Rue’s beginning to suspect that what they really are … is frightened.

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2018

When proper Miss Primrose Tunstell uncovers rumors of a new kind of vampire, Prim and her airship crew embark on a mission to Peru. There, they encounter pirates and strange atmospheric phenomena, and are mistaken for representatives of the Spanish Inquisition. Forced into extreme subterfuge (and some rather ridiculous outfits) Prim must also answer three of life's most challenging questions: Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul? Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez? And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species?

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2019

Percival Tunstell loves that his sister and her best friend are building themselves a crazy family of misfits on board their airship, The Spotted Custard. Of course, he’d never admit that he belongs among them. He’s always been on the outside—dispassionate, aloof, and hatless.

But accidental tea dueling, a trip to Japan, and one smart and beautiful doctor may have him renegotiating his whole philosophy on life.

Except hats. He’s done with hats. Thank you very much.

Gail Carriger.
Etiquette and Espionage.
Atom. 2013

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 25 June 2013

14-year-old Sophronia Angelia Temminnick is more interested in dismantling dumbwaiters than practising her curtsey. So, to her horror, her mother packs her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies. But even on the way to the school, Sophronia begins to realise the Academy may not be all her mother was expecting.

p167. ‘[...] Monique bragged that one of her boys made her silver and wood hair sticks as anti-supernatural weapons. With amethyst inlay. And another made her an exploding wicker chicken.’
    ‘Goodness, what’s that for?’
    Dimity pursed her lips. ‘Who doesn’t want an exploding wicker chicken?’

This is set in the same alternate steampunk-and-werewolves world as the "Parasol Protectorate" series, but several years earlier: we some charaters from that series here as their youthful selves. It is just as fun a romp, but, since this is a YA version of that world, it is considerably less raunchy. We get the vampires, werewolves, and dirigibles we know and love, and an interesting view of the mad scientist secret society that will cause Alexia Maccon so much trouble in a few years time.

Gail Carriger.
Curtsies and Conspiracies.
Atom. 2013

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia’s first year at school has certainly been rousing. First, her finishing school is training her to be a spy (won’t Mumsy be surprised!). Secondly, she gets mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and has a cheese pie thrown at her. Now, as Sophronia steak around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than at first appears…

Sophronia must rely on her training to uncover who is behind a dangerous plot and what role Mademoiselle Geraldine’s plays in the affair. Which is almost as challenging as surviving the London season with a full dance card!

Gail Carriger.
Waistcoats and Weaponry.
Atom. 2014

It’s one thing to waltz properly. It’s quite another to waltz properly with a bladed fan stitched into one’s corset.

Sophronia continues finishing school in style – with a range of deadly defences secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Her fashionable choice of weapons comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap and the charming Lord Felix Mersey hijack a suspiciously empty train to return their chum Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland.

But when Sophronia discovers they are being trailed by a dirigible of Picklemen and flywaymen, she unearths a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos. With her friends in mortal danger, Sophronia must sacrifice what she holds most dear – her freedom.

Gail Carriger.
Manners and Mutiny.
Atom. 2015

Are you ready to graduate from Finishing School?

Espionage lessons aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the fashionable vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster – in a decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2009

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 10 May 2010

Alexia Tarabotti is having a bad day. She just wants to enjoy some tea and treacle tart, but a vampire is intent on attacking her. And they haven't even been introduced! What the vampire doesn't seem to know is that she is a soulless preternatural, whose touch turns both vampires and werewolves human. But why doesn't he know this? All the London vampire hive have been warned about her. Then, while fending off his attack, Alexia accidentally kills him with her parasol. Social solecism number two. The only thing to do in this situation: faint, and stay delicately fainted until the trouble is cleared up, by the extremely irritating Lord Maccon, Alpha werewolf and head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry.

So starts an amusing and raunchy Victorian / Regency Romance / Steampunk / Vampire / Werewolf romp. It's hard to pin down to a single genre, as it freely borrows and mixes from several, but it is fun. Socially unacceptable Alexia, who has the dreadful misfortune of being half-Italian, cuts a swathe through society as she searches for the source of the attacks on her, not at all helped by Lord Maccon, who has the even more dreadful misfortune of being Scottish. The comedy of manners is lightly amusing (although not as hilarious as the blurb tries to make it sound), the society, where vampires, werewolves and ghosts have been integrated into the world since the time of King Henry VIII, is great fun, and the plot moves along at a grand spanking pace.

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2010

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 16 May 2010

Alexia Tarabotti, now Lady Maccon (no, that's not a spoiler: it was perfectly obvious that would be the outcome of book one) is having a bad day. There is something strange going on in London, as vampires and werewolves are forced into human form, and Lord Maccon won't let her get involved. So she gets involved anyway, which leads her, via a dirigible flight (the trains are on strike), to something even stranger in Scotland: Maccon's original werewolf pack that he deserted 20 years earlier.

With the help of most of the cast of the first book, along with a new super-parasol and its inventor, Alexia cuts a swathe through the werewolf packs, to discover what is causing the human form problem. Yet more frenetic running around, marvellous steampunk inventions, and moustache-twirling villains. Alexia gets mostly to the bottom of things, closing out this part of the plot, but there is a soul-shattering cliff-hanger.

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2010

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 11 September 2010

Lady Alexia Maccon finds herself in an inconvenient condition. Her undead werewolf husband has cast her off, claiming that it is impossible for the child to be his. Queen Victoria has sacked her from the Council over the scandal. Yet the vampires are suddenly trying to kill her. Why? She needs to flee to Italy, to find out from the Templars just what it is she is carrying. But they have their own agenda where her child is involved.

More mostly light-hearted fun and adventure with steampunk, werewolves, vampires, and parasols. It is fun to watch pragmatic soulless Alexia cope with such bizarre characters and puzzling circumstances. There is a degree of closure at the end, but the many revelations are clearly a set-up for further plot developments to inconvenience Alexia.

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2011

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 12 July 2011

Lady Alexia Maccon is finding it difficult to fend of the vampire attacks: being eight months pregnant makes it hard to fight off zombie porcupines. Then a ghost seeks her out to warn her about an attack on the Queen. Searching out the culprit leads her back to a secret about her husband's werewolf pack, and some strange doings of her own family.

More fun shenanigans in an alternate Victorian London, as Alexia stomps around investigating in her own distinctive soulless manner.

Gail Carriger.
Orbit. 2012

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 18 August 2012

The Queen of the Egyptian Vampire Hive has summoned the soulless Lady Alexia Maccon and her Abomination of a daughter to visit her in Alexandria. Alexia wants to investigate the God-Breaker Plague emanating from the same region, so accedes to the demand, using Ivy Tunstall's troupe of actors as cover for her journey. Meanwhile, back in London, the werewolves Professor Lyall and Biffy are investigating the murder of Lady Kingair's beta.

We get exotic locations, more clues as to Alexia's mysterious father, more insight to her own soulless powers, more intervention from the Order of the Brass Octopus, and a new parasol. And a whopping big plot development at the end.