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Blameless by Gail Carriger

Blameless will forever go down in infamy as the book that made me run to the store to buy some pesto.

Gail Carriger continues to amuse with cunningly crafted and original turns of phrase (my favorite from this one may be “pickled beyond the gherkin” to describe someone who was well and truly drunk). Much of my time reading was spent being thankful I was not on a plane, as my rather exuberant guffaws would most likely have troubled anyone sitting beside me.

Blameless finds Alexia dealing with being turned out of her husbands house (poorly), Lord Maccon dealing with having turned his wife out (poorly) and Professor Lyall and Foote dealing with their respective charges (very well, with a side of put upon resignation).

There are vampire plots, rove swarms, dashing werewolf heroics, and murderous ladybugs.

And pesto. Who knew Italy used pesto as vampire and werewolf deterrent. I thought it was innocently delicious.

For those following the series, this is another strong addition. Read on, my friends. Read on.

For everyone else, go grab a copy of Soulless, book one, and clear a good chunk of time. The books are more addictive than most controlled substances and you will not want to put it down once you have started it.

“Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings slouched reluctantly over to brace his pack leader from the other side, Together the Beta and the Gamma steered their Alpha down the hall to the central staircase, up several floors, over, and up the final steps to the earl’s tower sleeping chamber. They managed this with only three casualties: Lord Maccon’s dignity (which hadn’t very far to fall at that point), Major Channing’s elbow (which met a mahogany finial), and an innocent Etruscan vase (which died so that Lord Maccon could lurch with sufficient exaggeration).” Blameless, by Gail Carriger, page 29.

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Secrets of the Fire Sea by Stephen Hunt

This is my favorite of the series so far. Most of the pacing issues I had with previous books, the sort of situation where everything goes to hell in such a rushed fashion the reader is almost left behind, are delightfully absent in this one. The Commodore drove me nuts, as usual, with his eternal put-upon misery, but even that had a fantastic pay off by the end. I think, after finishing the book, that Commodore Black was one of my favorite characters. His scene at the end is just so visceral. Not punches pulled. And I loved it.

Add in Jethro Daunt, the Circlist priest who was kicked out due do the fact he hears old gods (possessing an amazing talent for deductive reasoning), and his companion Boxiron, the head of a Steamman Knight inexpertly attached to the inferior man-made machine body (with an issue with aggression and stuck gears, not to mention a black market skill set) , and Fire Sea has a cast that not only grabs the readers attention but pulls them through each and every page. Every now and then Jethro appears to be a fantastic hat tilt to Sherlock Holmes, and on occasion made me chuckle with appreciation. His first scene in the book really drives that impression, and I was unable to get it out of my head whenever he was in a scene for the rest of the book.

The main protagonist is Hannah Conquest, ward of the church and math prodigy. She is interesting, but serves more as a reason to bring the rest of the cast together than anything else. Purity and Molly remain far more compelling heroines in my opinion.

The isle of Jago itself presents a creepy, hellish setting. From the corrupting domain of the valvemen to the beasts that roam the exterior of the city there is an omnipresent sense of danger and horror. The book itself is full of murder, conspiracy, and skulking Old Gods, which combined with the setting adds the twisted horror aspect I have come to love and expect from Hunt’s books.

The Ursine race added another interesting culture to the social menagerie that populates the world, and the fact the plot hinged on something more mundane than most of the other novels- race/culture conflict between the Humans and the Ursines- the book as a whole was a more intriguing read.

This is a wholly brilliant addition to the series. I highly recommend picking it up!

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‘Rise of the Iron Moon’ by Stephen Hunt

If you have any interest in steampunk at all, this series should be at the top of your to read list. The world build is a perfect mix of industrial and fantastical. The society is delightfully skewed and often brutal, and horrifyingly believable.

This was a book bursting with pure, enjoyable high adventure. As a bonus, the two lead characters from Court of the Air made an appearance, and while they were not technically center stage for this adventure, they worked very well with those who were.

There is a new threat to the Kingdom of Jackals, and it comes in the form of the invading Army of Shadows. The Army leaves desolate wastelands in its wake as its bizarre creatures rape lands to supply the needs of the Masters. It is up to Molly, Oliver, the Commodore, Coppertracks, and young Purity Drake to somehow stop the Army, defeat the Masters, and save their world. There are hijinks and shenanigans aplenty, politics and dark magics.

We get to see more of the Steam Nation and its sentient race of steam men, which I always enjoy. A nice mix of technomancy and voodoo make the steam culture one of my favorites in the books.

As always, it is the tone of this series that brings me back again and again with such delight. High stakes mayhem and cunning social commentary work very well together and make for some amazing page turners.

Court of the Air is the first book in the series, followed by Kingdom Beyond the Waves. They are all brilliant reads, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. They are fun, pure and simple, and everything else ties into that sense of fun and excitement to make one of the most satisfying reads I have enjoyed in a long time.