In Book 3 of “The Parasol Protectorate,” Lady Maccon, a.k.a. La Diva Tarabotti, is forced to flee England by the scandal of her pregnancy, which no one seems to believe could be the result of her marital relations with Lord Maccon, Alpha werewolf of the Woolsey Pack. Seriously, nobody can find any precedent for a werewolf reproducing except via bite. And though His Lordship is good at that, even he knows that a man in his “mostly dead” condition is extremely unlikely to father a child. Spurned by her husband, turfed out by her own family, and fired from the Shadow Council by Queen Victoria herself, Alexia crosses Europe on a Steampunk-themed quest to vindicate her honor.
Meanwhile, every vampire on the continent seems to be mad for her blood (metaphorically speaking, since they can’t actually bite her). A German scientist in the French city of Nice wants to do not-very-nice things to her. A mysterious white werewolf is (har har) dogging her steps. A plague of clockwork ladybugs comes dripping with menace. Escaping from one only to be menaced by the next, Alexia makes her way to Florence. There she seeks answers from the Knights Templar, who rule Italy with an anti-supernatural fanaticism at least as terrifying as any of these. It’s such a pity that, just as she is finding answers to what kind of child a soulless Preternatural like herself could have, the Templars realize that Alexia is of more use to them dead than alive.
Back in England, Lord Maccon has been indisposed—drunk, if you must know; and where a werewolf is concerned, that takes some doing. His Beta (second in command) suspects that Alexia may be innocent. But while he waits for his principal to sober up enough to face that probability, more problems crop up. Lone wolves see their chance to challenge the Alpha for leadership of his pack. Lord Akeldama, the flamboyant vampire who happens to be Lady Maccon’s friend, has disappeared along with all his drones. So has the Woolsey Pack’s Gamma. And the Potentate of all vampires in England has been acting in a way that threatens to overturn the British Empire’s progressive society in which mortals, vampires, and werewolves are integrated in a delicate alliance. Before the smoke clears, the situation will have become more complicated than ever—not to mention, deadly.
In this installment, Alexia learns more about her mysterious father, the care and feeding of Preternaturals, and the possibility of accepting and loving her “infant inconvenience” even before it is born. If it lives to be born, that is. Her faithful retainer Flute, her enthusiastic but silly friend Ivy, and the mannish French inventor Madame Lefoux, all show surprising qualities. And unlikeliest of all, her love affair with Lord Maccon gets a second chance, even after the unforgivable. To know what I mean, you had to have read the previous book in the series, titled Changeless. To find out what happens next, steer your dirigible, sky-rail car, or submersible toward Book 4: Heartless.
As usual, this book flies under an Adult Content Advisory—though the erotic bits take more of a backseat to the adventure than in the first two installments. And while it entertains with its distinctively playful, arch tone, it also contains some dark imagery that may disturb some younger readers. Grammar Nazis may be miffed to see the word “antennae” used as a singular noun, and those following the series by way of the Emily Grey-narrated audio-books may challenge her butchery of German pronunciation. Apart from such minor details, both Carriger and Grey are at their most entertaining in this far-flung tale of travel, mystery, action, and intrigue.