based on a novel by Gail Carriger; adapted and art by Rem
published by Yen Press; $12.99 US
The opening scene establishes Alexia’s fire and determination, as she faces off against a squad of werewolf soldiers camped on her front lawn. (She wants them in back so they won’t spoil her dinner party.) The bigger problem is a mysterious condition preventing the supernatural characters from changing when they’re in its zone of influence.
You have to roll with the series. Certain terms relating to the supernatural aren’t ever clearly explained; you just have to pick them up by context. You don’t have to remember a lot of details from the first book to enjoy this one, though, since it’s a new plot and character structure. Events move quickly, and sometimes confusingly, but when I get a little lost, I just reassure myself that it’s probably explained in the source novels and wait it out until I get to a better section. My favorite parts don’t require keeping up with a lot of the jargon or background knowledge. They’re the scenes with Alexia and her husband (as when she calls him a “deranged mole”) or Alexia and her scatter-brained but well-meaning friend Ivy, the ones where the characters just get to talk to each other in clever and funny ways.
The latter girl is in a particularly silly quandary — Ivy is engaged to an officer (Captain Featherstonehaugh, pronounced “Fanshaw” — that’s not in the book, but I find that bit about England hilarious) but infatuated with Alexia’s husband’s second-in-command. The two women, plus the assistant, plus a wonderful hat designer and inventor named Madame LeFoux, plus Alexia’s annoying sister, all trek off to Scotland to meet with another of Alexia’s husband’s wolf packs and continue investigating the mysterious non-powered epidemic. They travel by dirigible, making for a unique setting for an action sequence as well as a reminder that this is a weird steampunk fantasy world.
In Scotland, we meet another wonderful, self-possessed woman: Sidheag, the unofficial pack leader. The females in this series are fabulous! There’s fighting, there’s flirting, there’s treachery and investigation and questions of etiquette and naked men. The book is just jam-packed with almost everything you could want in escapist fiction. (The publisher provided a review copy.)