Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

I am really not in a mood to be writing about this book, full as it is of fluff and adventure without real teeth. It's Boxing Day as I'm writing, and the fucking freezing rain outside means I don't get to have Christmas with my family. I'll get to see my Mom in a day or two, but the family occasion with one of my sisters and her spouse is scuppered. We'll try to see them soon, of course, but it's not the same.

Fuck the world.

In the middle of the funk caused by something as impossible to change as the bloody weather, as I impotently rage at it and try not to be depressed because these things happen, after all, I need to sit down and write a book review for tomorrow.

And maybe it's okay that it's fluff. Because honestly, this was fairly good fluff. I'd read two or three previous Gail Carriger books, and I really can't say I enjoyed them. There was a good deal of aggravation running through all of my previous reviews, and at least one or two moments of real anger. If this book had been one of those, this might be one of my more cranky reviews ever, on a book that wouldn't deserve that much ire.

But you know what? I was actually surprised that not only did I not mind Waistcoats and Weaponry, I pretty much enjoyed it. I can't say I fell in love with it, but as a fluffy diversion from the world, it was at least a good one. It had none of the plot twists and unexplained decisions and claims that made the other books get more than a little on my nerves.

Maybe Carriger's getting better as she goes along. Maybe her style of fluff is better suited to boarding schools teaching young ladies how to be spies than the more epic doings of the empire and vampires and werewolves. We're in the same universe, but not the same series, and somehow, that made all the difference.

This is a series about young ladies in steampunk Victorian England with vampires and werewolves and human supremacist inventors, although it's seen as more gauche than anything more serious. These days, that's a particular issue, and is a bit aggravating here. Carriger comes close to addressing inequities in British society, but it stays fairly firmly in the light category.

The girls attend a floating school for intelligence work, and the main character (this is several books into the series, I believe, but it didn't really affect how I read the book) leaves the school for her older brother's engagement ball. While there, she is found by her two love interests - a rich guy who is charming and part of the human supremacists and a young Black man who works firing the coal engines of whatever is nearby and has aspirations to become a werewolf.

One of her best friends, raised by a werewolves but not herself a werewolf, needs Sophronia's help to make it home to her pack. To do so, they end up stealing a vampire-piloted train, and further hijinks ensue with both the vampire drones and the Picklemen (human supremacist inventors) piloting a nearby dirigible.

It's all fairly light, and I wasn't ever really worried about any of the characters, and sometimes that's exactly what you need. I can't say I made me fall in love with Carriger's world, but I'm certainly feeling more kindly towards it than I was before.

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