Well phooey. I loved Soulless, I really quite liked Changeless, but I just wasn't pleased with Blameless. It was missing some spark that the other two had in spades. Part of it has to do with what I felt was an unnecessary location change and part of it had to do with Alexia herself, who had the opportunity to be a stronger and more interesting character (aka just staying as she was) and Carriger opted not to take the story in an interesting direction for the sake of a tidier ending. If you haven't read the second book in the series, Changeless, then stop reading this review now if you hope to have the ending of book #2 unspoiled.

In Changeless, we learned that a mummified preternatural had a shocking range for the whole nullifying supernaturals thing, thus reducing any supernatural in a certain radius mortal. This provided Alexia etc. with the surprising information that preternatural bodies seemed to keep their soul-sucker/curse-breaker abilities when mummified -- good thing that no one knows how the Egyptians mummified folks. Should word get out, though, surely renewed efforts might be made to relearn this trick and at that point, Alexia becomes worth more dead than alive. Alexia was able to dispose of the preternatural mummy, thus returning her husband's old clan (who were in possession of the offending mummy) back into their usual werewolf selves, but her personal life took a significant hit when what should be a happy event (the discovery of her pregnancy) turned ghastly. Her husband raged, insisting it couldn't be his, as immortals could no longer procreate. He flew off the handle and Alexia was forced to abandon Scotland post haste.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I thought this was a *fantastic* cliffhanger ending. It made me feel that Gail Carriger was really being faithful to the true natures of her characters (and hence, my anger at the end of Blameless). Of *course* Conall Maccon might flip out and overreact when faced with information that suggests his wife was unfaithful if everything he's ever known about supernatural reproductive capabilities is true. What made it truly awesome, though, was that he was so venomous in his denunciation of her. His language towards the woman he is supposed to love was completely horrifying. I loved the dramatic position it put Alexia in at the beginning of Blameless. She has a loyal band who believe she's telling the truth and what they have on their hands is a miracle indeed (even if they know next to nothing as to how this is possible), but Lord Maccon is initially convinced of her infidelity (even if we all know he'll realized the truth soon enough) and his complete and utter overreaction is unforgivable. It's awesome.

Once he's been completely sauced for a few days (quite a feat for a supernatural), Lord Maccon was bound to come around and realize that his Alexia would never cheat on him, but the damage is done and eventually he'll need to figure out how to get her back, if that is, indeed, possible. Alexia, meanwhile, would simply seek refuge in the home of her friend, Lord Akeldama, but apparently Lord Akeldama and his drones have completely disappeared. So Alexia takes off for Italy and we begin to suspect all new things of Floote's capabilities and what services he might have rendered for Alexia's father. Italy turns out to be a colossally bad decision on several levels (sure, the Templars will protect her, but they'll also want to use her and experiment a bit with her) and unsurprisingly, the main action of the book has to deal with escaping their clutches (while still surviving vampire attacks, as a price has been put on Alexia's head by the vamps). Back in London, Professor Lyall is trying to hold the pack together (and fighting off challengers who would see Lord Maccon in a precarious position) while simultaneously attempting to sober up the Alpha and drum some sense into his head. Lyall is also almost entirely alone in trying to figure out what plots are afoot that would drive Lord Akeldama into hiding.

What results from the London intrigues is a wonderful plot twist... but then everything goes wishy washy in Italy. It's spoilers from here on out, folks, so consider yourselves warned.

In London, the storyline about Biffy is actually quite excellent -- Biffy is one of Lord Akeldama's drones who is kidnapped by the potentate. Lord Akeldama flees the city (or at least goes into deep cover hiding) as he's clearly being threatened and yet we assume he's doing something to get Biffy back and not just relying on poor stretched-thin Lyall. Just when it appears that Conall and Lyall have rescued the chap... Biffy gets shot. The only choice is to let him die or try to turn him into a werewolf (though as a drone of Lord Akeldama, clearly he hoped to be a vampire). The twist here is really quite wonderful, and yet this doesn't make up for the inconsistency in Alexia's actions and lack of imagination with regards to that plot ending.

Alexia does manage to achieve one thing with her trip to Italy -- she finds the proof she needs to prove the baby is Conall's. Preternaturals cannot tolerate the presence of other preternaturals to the point that no preternatural female has ever been able to carry a child to term. They inevitably miscarry and the only way preternaturals can pass along their abilities is when males procreate with human females; and preternaturals always seem to "breed true," thus resulting in preternatural babies. The key here is that they can procreate with humans which doesn't quite qualify when Lord Conall Maccon is concerned, even if he is, essentially, human when touching Alexia. But because of his supernatural state, a preternatural and a supernatural procreating would create a child with some soul, so the child is not a preternatural. Alexia finds an account of a preternatural/vampire offspring known as a "soul-stealer" which is apparently even more fearsome than a preternatural. It could be interesting, but it's all terribly convenient. Ah well.

Truth be told, my real issue is this: I feel that Carriger did not properly keep to Alexia's character with the ending of this novel. In England, Conall publishes a public statement insisting that Alexia's child is his and in Italy, Alexia ends up inadvertently finding this out (a little unlikely, but fine). She bursts into tears (hormones, whatever) and when he shows up later on, she forgives him with the only "stipulations" of that forgiveness hinging on gifts. Alexia, our proud and strong preternatural, completely forgives her husband for saying horrifying things to her face and completely doubting her word and trust... and she does this so easily, with the gifts being only, really, a bit of humor? I'm sorry, but I was hoping Carriger was a better writer than this and could have seen the possibilities that come with Alexia refusing to forgive Conall (at least for now). To me, this shows that Carriger herself is too in love with Conall and is willing to forgive him anything, but quite frankly, for the way Alexia is established, I would assume that his error was far too extreme to simply be forgiven on the spot. It's not like his agreeing to purchase her requested items are a serious factor here and we know it, so I won't make any irritating comments about her being bought off, as we know it's not true. Alexia simply misses her husband and is willing to forgive him... but I honestly believe her character up to this point would see her as too stubborn to just give in. It's more than the public humiliation, it's the fact that he immediately assumed she'd been unfaithful and didn't even try to entertain the possibility of trusting her before flying off the handle. HIS character held true, but Alexia's yielded as soon as she might get her husband back. I was expecting her to appreciate his apology but refuse to return to him on principle. Clearly, this was a major issue for me and rather ruined the novel on the whole, even if I thought things were a bit dull anyway (at least for Alexia in Rome).

It's all quite unfortunate, as the novel was perfectly passable up to that point -- amusing, even if not quite as great as the first two. This hasn't turned me completely off of the novels, but I really do hope that Carriger returns to something delightful in book four or I'm going to think she's quite lost the fresh sparkle that charmed me so much in Soulless.

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