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In the last few weeks finished five books in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, written in genre self-described by author as "steampunk urbane fantasy comedies of manners." Set in Victorian England, populated, aside from regular humans, by ghosts, werewolves and vampires. The supernatural set has equal rights with the rest of the citizenry, unlike in some other less enlightened countries, and are the reason Britain is enjoying its dominant status in the world. Miss Alexia Tarabotti is 25, spinster and a bluestocking, curious, clever, opinionated, strong willed and independent. She is also a preternatural with an ability to temporarily turn vampires and werewolves mortal and to permanently exorcise ghosts. She has a penchant for getting herself into sticky situations as evidenced by adventures that start in the Soulless and continue through Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless. The books are all connected and should be read in order. If you can deal simultaneously with descriptions of improbable steam-powered gadgets alongside descriptions of ruffled skirts and outrageous hats you might enjoy these books. A word of caution: don't expect any type of historical accuracy, not even in the Victorian interactions but expect plenty of liberties taken with the vampire and werewolf ethos (thankfully nobody sparkles). I recommend this for a light entertaining read that it is, complete with strong heroine, interesting companion characters, and fun premise and setting, while the writing is slightly uneven in spots it's engrossing enough for any roughness to be forgiven. It's a perfect beach or vacation read.

As a follow up I also read Etiquette & Espionage, the first book in the companion prequel series Finishing School. There are at least two more books planned in this series but they are not out yet. The book was also quite fun, I recommend reading it after Parasol Protectorate to play "spot a familiar character", but it's even more "alternative" and pushes the boundaries of possible even farther out.

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December 2016

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