Parasol Protectorate // Series Highlight

I read the Parasol Protectorate series at the perfect time in my life. I was feeling very depressed at the level of alpha-male borderline (or not so borderline) abuse that seems to be a major feature of urban fantasy. I wanted something fun, something that would make me fall in love with the characters, something a little bit silly. Soulless, the first book in this series, hit all those notes. If found family, a steampunk Victorian setting, vampires, werewolves, queer rep, and a whole load of brilliant ridiculousness sounds interesting to you, it’s time to pick these books up.

There are minor spoilers in this review, though I avoid talking about the context in which they happen. It’s difficult to discuss a series without mentioning some character developments.

Photo of the five books in the Parasol Protectorate series. Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless, by Gail Carriger.

I shield in the name of fashion. I accessorize for one and all. Pursuit of truth is my passion. This I vow by the great parasol.

The Parasol Protectorate series follows the quirky life of Alexia Tarabotti, an upper-class spinster who has a penchant for getting in trouble. Alexia has a power her family are unaware of; she’s a preternatural, someone who can cancel out the power of the other creatures in the city. Werewolves? Vampires? Easy to handle if you hit them hard enough with a parasol. Victorian society accepts that preternatural’s don’t have souls, but Alexia has such a strong will she doesn’t even need one. Surrounded by her burly werewolf love interest, flamboyant vampires, lesbian inventors, and a friend whose style of hat is… interesting, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

The characters are the absolute highlight of this book. The found family vibes are something I still feel my heart swell about. If that’s a trope you enjoy I urge you to read this series because it’s one of the best. Parasol Protectorate is definitely a character-driven series, and the plots are sometimes lacking or contrived, but who needs perfection when you can have fun?

Alexia’s family leaves a lot to be desired. They’re generally judgemental in a way typical to a high-standing Victorian family. Alexia’s not worth their time; she’s in her later 20’s now, a loudmouthed spinster, and… gasp half-Italian! Honestly, they get worse throughout the books, so it was high time for Alexia to find a new family.

She seems to collect strange people like stray dogs. Every character is so beautifully over-the-top, sometimes even caricaturish, but it works so well. Gail Carriger somehow manages to balance the silliness, the eccentricity, with characters that have depth and complicated relationships with each other. I often struggle to remember character names, but I had no issue with this series because of how wonderfully unique they all are. I’m still sad I finished because I need to read more (which is why it’s great there are so many spin-offs).

Another thing, pretty much everyone in this book is queer. Everyone. Gail Carriger said let’s make everyone gay. Lord Maccon, Alexia’s grumpy werewolf love, is our much needed heterosexual representation. Every group of gays needs a straight friend to poke fun at. I’ve read so many books where LGBT+ people couldn’t lead happy lives, so it was so wonderful to read such a light-hearted book, where you knew they’d face struggles but be okay in the end. The Parasol Protectorate series truly is one of the best comfort reads.

This is a spoiler, so move onto the next paragraph if you don’t want to read it. I will note there’s an entire spin-off series about this character though, so their existence is well known. Alexia has a child at one point, and although I usually hate pregnancy/child plotlines, I enjoyed the addition of Prudence because it was such a beautiful queer found family moment. Due to some plot stuff an untraditional family is born. A family can be two dads, one mum, and a team of Victorian dandies, right?

One of the negative aspects of the book is something a lot of historical writers seem to do. The characters do meet people from around the world and go to places other than London. In a world where queerness is relatively acceptable, a world that doesn’t follow history accurately, there’s no need to refer to people and places as savage and/or primitive. I read so many books where they slip into orientalist language, and there’s no need. I want to believe Gail Carriger did this intentionally to show those Victorian sensibilities, especially considering she’s an archaeologist herself, but it didn’t need to be included at all. I’m glad it doesn’t happen often, but it does put a downer on a series that’s supposed to be light-hearted fluff.

The writing style of the book is one I loved, but I could see it being an acquired taste. As you can probably gather from everything else I’ve spoken about, the Parasol Protectorate doesn’t take itself seriously. There’s an over-the-top sense of humour that works wonderfully with the eccentric characters. The world Gail Carriger has created is so vibrant and fun. If you want something serious, or something that makes a lot of sense, this isn’t the series for you. You have to accept you’re in for a strange and exuberant ride of silliness.

I’m not going to say this is the perfect series, but it’s so much fun. Sometimes it frustrated me, relying a little bit too much on miscommunication, and the world view of an upper-class Victorian wasn’t always the nicest place to be. At the same time, I would read this series again and again; whenever I want a little pick me up of campy, loveable characters this is what I reach for. The series is unlike anything I’ve read before, and I’m so excited to read more in the universe!

Recommended for: people who love silly things, people who love found family, people who want a unique take on paranormal romance, people who want a mainly queer cast, people who can overlook some dodgy Victorian word usage, people who want to read something fluffy and light-hearted, people who are looking for their next comfort read, people who like historical books with a fantasy flare.

About the Author

Photo of Gail Carriger.

Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with steampunk and urban fantasy (plus sexy queer joy as G. L. Carriger). Her books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, Tinkered Stars, and San Andreas Shifter series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. Also nonfiction: The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture. She is published in many languages, has over a million books in print, over a dozen New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and Romantic Times.

Her debut made Audible’s Best list, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book, an IndieBound Notable, and a Locus Recommended Read. She has received the ALA’s Alex Award, the Prix Julia Verlanger, the Elbakin Award, the Steampunk Chronicle’s Reader’s Choice Award, and a Starburner Award. She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, cephalopods, and tea.

Get This First of the Series!

If you want to remember to check out this book you should add to Add to Goodreads!

You can buy this book from major book sellers such as BookDepository and Waterstones.

I’d recommend checking out your local indie bookshop! If you’re in the UK you can also use Hive.co.uk to support them.

Have you read this series? What did you think? Do you prefer character focused books or strong plot based?

5 thoughts on “Parasol Protectorate // Series Highlight

  1. GAY AND VAMPIRES!! I cannot believe I haven’t read these yet! Fantastic review, for reasons I must go binge read this as soon as I can ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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