Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Prudence "Rue" Akeldama doesn't have much to do in England. Lord Akeldama gives her a dirigible, which she paints like a ladybug and names the Spotted Custard, and charges her with the very important task of bringing new strain of tea from India back to England. Rue assembles a crew including her best friend and fashionista Prim, Prim's academic twin brother Percy, and rakish French engineer Quesnel to aid her in her quest. They encounter a wide variety of unforeseen problems and complications on the way that includes whole new races of shapeshifters, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, culture shock, an ages old rivalry, and, of course, tea.
Prudence is the first novel in the Custard Protocal series that leaps forward years after the last Parasol Protectorate book. The world looks a bit different with frivolous Ivy Tunstell as a vampire queen (and whose hideous preference in fashion actually matters) and the younger generation making their own trouble. The first quarter of the book describes the world and how it stands since the end of the previous series. At first, I thought the old characters seemed to be cartoony caricatures of themselves, but they are being viewed by Prudence who may very well see them that way. When Alexia and Maccon share a private moment seeing Prudence off when she leaves unexpectedly (to everyone else) early, it feels like the real characters again. The novel really takes off after Prudence and her crew leave for India. It's a new setting for the world and I thought the culture, flavor, and sights were well written.
Rue and her best friend Primrose Tunstell couldn't be more different. Rue is a firecracker as she has been since she was a child. She never really grew out of seeing the rules of polite society as frivolous and unnecessary, but she reigns herself in a bit more than as a child. Besides Rue's ability to borrow other supernaturals' abilities, she can also morph her personality to suit any given situation by taking traits from those she knows. I liked this because it's not supernatural; it's just a product of being observant and knowing what attitude is needed for the situation. Rue just has an infection exuberance for adventure and she's fun to read. As much as she seems to dismiss her mother, they have more in common than she's willing to admit. Primrose is easily dismissed as being as frivolous and annoying as her mother, but she is different. She has actually good taste in fashion and ensures everyone around her isn't a fashion disaster. She also is deft at manipulating situations within the bounds of polite society and resolving everything in a civilized fashion. Neither character is exactly like past characters or their parents and provide a breath of fresh air in this new series.
Prudence is a fun steampunk adventure with new characters. Some people thought the resolution of the book was problematic due to imperialism, which it is, but Prudence alone can't fix the problems of one country occupying another. I think she resolved the situation the best way she could have. Overall, Prudence is a worthy successor to Alexia and I can't wait to read more of her adventures.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins