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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Prudence: The Custard Protocol Book One" by Gail Carriger (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Gail Carriger's Official Website Here
Read FBC's Review of Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless
Read FBC's Review of The Finish School Book 1 and Book 2 

: When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances - names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

FORMAT: Prudence is the first novel in The Custard Protocol. This series picks up 20+ years after The Parasol Protectorate series. It is not necessary to read The Parasol Protectorate. Some of the events will be referenced and some characters make an appearance, but it isn't necessary.

Prudence is an adult fiction novel that is a mix of supernatural, steampunk, humor, and a little romance and historical fiction. Prudence stands at 368 pages and was published by Orbit on March 17, 2015.  

ANALYSIS: Gail Carriger is one of those authors that you either love her writing style or you hate it. It is a little bit steampunk, little bit supernatural, and a whole lot of out-right silliness. It certainly isn't for everyone.

I started reading Carriger's novels in 2010 when the Parasol Protectorate series was brand new. I admit it took a little getting used to, as the books weren't like anything I had read before. The conversations between characters was flowery, the situations ridiculous (in a silly/fun way), and there was an effort to keep things time period specific. I grew to enjoy Carriger's novels and have since read the entire Parasol Protectorate series and all three books – so far – of the Finishing School series.

Given how much I enjoyed the Parasol Protectorate series, I was excited when I heard that Carriger was doing a spin-off of sorts with The Custard Protocol. The Custard Protocol follows Prudence – Lord and Lady Maccon's daughter – as she makes her way through society and learns to accept her role as a metanatural. Unfortunately, my excitement did not last through this book.

First, it should be known that if you enjoyed the Parasol Protectorate series, you will probably enjoy The Custard Protocol. The writing style is the same, the characters are the same; everything is pretty much in line with the first series. And that is where the problem begins.

Ultimately, I felt as though The Custard Protocol was a mere redo of the Parasol Protectorate. Substitute Alexia with Prudence, Ivy with her daughter, and a few other characters, and you ultimately have the entire first series. I was really looking forward to seeing Prudence as a new person and new character, but that didn't happen.

In fact, if you closed your eyes there really was no difference between Alexia in book 1 of the Parasol Protectorate and Prudence in book one of The Custard Protocol. The powers were a little different and Prudence was more aware of the supernatural aspect of the world, but attitude, personality, quirks, and speaking style was exactly the same. The only exception is..... Prudence is boring. She only knows clothing and fashion. So imagine a boring Alexia and you get Prudence.

Prudence wasn't the only one without a new personality. Prim Tunstall is attached at Prudence's hip and appears non-stop throughout the book. The problem with this is Prim – while claiming to not be like her mother – is exactly like Ivy Hisselpenny (Alexia's best friend from The Parasol Protectorate series).

I really would have liked to see the characters be themselves instead of feeling as if Carriger was trying to re-capture the feelings from the first series. Yes, it could be argued that people inherit their parent's traits, but every character was almost a cookie cutter knockoff of their parent from the first series. It was a bit disappointing.

In addition to the lack of new character development, there is the lack of a plot. The ultimate plot of the book is that Prudence is sent to India to discover some odd, but tasty tea plant. I wish I could tell you there was more to the plot, but there isn't a whole lot more to the plot. There is a subplot that gets revealed in the last part of the book about two groups of warring supernatural creatures, but it is largely overshadowed and downplayed.

For much of the book readers are overburdened with nonsense. There are huge sections of silly talk about what the proper dress is for an occasion or what hat should go with what. There is a lot of description and time spent talking about a ladybug painted dirigible that farts – yes it farts and that is world-ending horrible. And let us not forget the debates about what is or is not proper for society. I know society gossip/reputation was important in that time period, but this just seemed to be placed there in the absence of a plot.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the series is supposed to be silly and humorous, but for the most part Carriger knows how to bring in humor while keeping a plot going. That did not happen here. We were left with a good 25-50% of nonsense, a little plot development, and a little look back and hints of favorite characters from previous books. 

I wish I could say I enjoyed Prudence. Carriger is a wonderful, amazing and very talented author. Unfortunately, this book was not one of her strongest. I believe fans of her other series may enjoy it, but it does not have the potential to capture the attention of a new audience.


George said...

I've read the first couple Prudence books Gail Carriger wrote but tired of the silliness. Prudence has potential but Carriger needs to either make these books more wacky or more gritty.

Cindy said...

The first series was a level of silliness that I found tolerable. I don't think I could have read them back-to-back, but they were alright.

This was just eye-rolling silliness that really had no direction. By the halfway mark, I wondered if there was a story here or just a vessel for random silliness.

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