It’s the fourth book of The Parasol Protectorate, and only the first time that phrase is mentioned in the series. Also known as Alexia Tarabotti novels (though she’s been Lady Maccon since her marriage), they relate the racy, dangerous adventures of a soulless, or preternatural, lady in a steampunk version of Victorian England. Being preternatural means she can turn vampires and werewolves mortal with a touch; she can even exorcise ghosts. Being the wife of Conal Maccon, Alpha werewolf of the Woolsey Pack, means that she has influence over one segment of the Greater London supernatural set. Her seat on the Queen’s secret Shadow Council, as muhjah (representing the preternatural interest), gives her unusual (for a woman) influence over government policy. And her unprecedented pregnancy, the fruit of a cross-species mating with a werewolf, makes her a threat to the undead status quo.
The vampires—particularly those of the Westminster Hive, who are bonded to a certain Countess Nadasdy like insects to their queen—have been trying to kill Alexia since she became pregnant. Their latest attempt, using porcupines engineered to shoot poisoned quills, came too close for comfort. The only way to pacify the Hive, it seems, is to let Lord Akeldama, the flamboyant rove vampire who now sits on the Shadow Council, adopt her child. The only arrangements by which Alexia will accept this are sure to put werewolf-vampire relations to the test. The wolf pack has just moved into the town house next door to Akeldama’s when a ghost appears, warning of an impending, supernatural attempt on the Queen’s life. And so Alexia is on the case again.
The BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry) can only help so much. The full moon is a week away. The werewolf agents are starting to get furry—especially young Biffy, who isn’t handling well the shock of changing from Lord Akeldama’s favorite drone to the newest pup in the Woolsey Pack. Alexia herself is hampered by her advanced pregnancy, and by the strange behavior of her awful half-sister Felicity, who has forced herself on the household once again. Alexia suspects that the plot is somehow connected to the betrayal that split Conal from his previous pack and led to him challenging for leadership of the Woolsey Pack, thirty years ago. But whether that means the would-be assassins are werewolves, vampires, or boffins, she can’t tell. She becomes desperate enough to send her flighty friend Ivy to do some snooping for her. She becomes concerned about the well-being of her unconventional friend Madame Lefoux, the mannish French inventor.
It is finally the dying declaration of a fading ghost that gives her the clue that makes all the pieces snap together. But by that time, it may already be too late to stop a rampaging engine of destruction from upsetting the balance of supernatural power. The lifestyles of the undead about town, whether fanged or furry, will never be the same after one night of frenzied maneuvers, battles, birth-pangs, and other surprises.
Witty, sexy, thrilling, and full of innovative ideas about vampires, werewolves, and whatnot, this series reaches its conclusion in the next book, Timeless. A spinoff series titled Finishing School, featuring the infant inconvenience featured in this novel, begins with Etiquette and Espionage. Gail Carriger is the pen-name of American-born and British-educated archaeologist Tofa Borregaard.