a review by Nalini Haynes
Timeless is the fifth and final instalment in the Parasol Protectorate series, a delicious romantic adventure comedy in the steampunk genre with werewolves and vampires, Victorian manners and politics. In the beginning Alexia Tarabotti was a young woman of intelligence but few sensibilities whose lack of soul made her a preternatural: able to exorcise ghosts and turn other supernaturals mortal with her touch. In the first book the reader is introduced to Lord Akeldama, a gay vampire whose style and etiquette is everything one could wish for in a Victorian dandy. We are also introduced to Conall Maccon, a rough and ready werewolf with a gruff heart of gold who is, against his better judgement, attracted to the inconvenient Alexia.
Spoilers for the earlier books now abound. If you haven’t read them already, skip this review and go and read them immediately! Conall and Alexia fall in love inconveniently and, worse still, get married. To top it all off, Alexia then falls pregnant – remember she turns her husband mortal with her touch? Well, he forgot this pertinent fact while enraged with jealousy over Alexia’s apparent unfaithfulness. Carriger sensibly did not turn this series into a soapie, however, instead reuniting the couple at the close of another adventure.
The problem remaining was that the child is a source of great concern to the supernatural community, causing a political nightmare. The solution was proposed at the beginning of book 4, which was, incidentally, the first book I read in this series. I fell in love with the Parasol Protectorate in chapter 1 book 4, when I met Alexia, large with child, struggling to rise from a chair, surrounded by men (?) whose survival skills included producing food for her on demand and placating her whilst presenting her with a solution to the political problem: Alexia’s child was to be adopted by Lord Akeldama. Another adventure ensued, ending with the birth of the baby and the settling of domestic arrangements.
Book five commences when the inappropriately named Prudence, Alexia’s daughter, is a toddler ruling the combined households of Lord Akeldama and his drones, and Conall Maccon’s wolf pack as only a toddler can. Prudence’s bath night took the combined might of both households to execute without disaster as she absorbed the immortal state of vampires or werewolves upon touch. This resulted in Prudence leaping on to a mantelpiece, lisping her refusal of her bath around fangs, followed by a puppy romping down the street.
The combination of Victorian manners and madcap adventure woven around pregnancy and then child raising, makes this unique story all the more delightful. Carriger spoofs real-life difficulties with raising children while successfully combining action and adventure into an engaging story, then wraps up the series while it is still fresh and engaging.
Carriger’s conclusion to the story arc is, in nearly every way satisfying. Carriger has previously stated that she will continue to write in this world but not with these characters; it is my hope that Prudence is one of the characters she takes into future stories, but as a teen or grown woman.
I give Timeless 5 stars for worldbuilding, character development, aesthetics, plot, story arc, conclusion and, most of all, for providing a satisfying pregnancy and child-rearing experience after the ‘happily ever after’.