Series Review: The Custard Protocol, books 1-2 by Gail Carriger

Series Review: The Custard Protocol, books 1-2 by Gail CarrigerPrudence by Gail Carriger
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Series: The Custard Protocol #1
Published by Hachette Audio on March 24, 2015
Genres: Steampunk, Romance, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Historical
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Introducing the Custard Protocol series, in which Alexia Maccon's daughter Prudence travels to India on behalf of Queen, country...and the perfect pot of tea.

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama ("Rue" to her friends) is bequeathed an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female under similar circumstances would do -- she christens it the Spotted Custard and floats off to India.
Soon, she 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), Rue must rely on her good breeding -- and her metanatural abilities -- to get to the bottom of it all...

Gail Carriger is one of those authors whose books I have a complicated relationship with. Like, they’re so completely up my aisle on paper and they’re funny and irreverent and focus on women being badasses in atypical ways, but they also often do things that piss me off. Prudence leans more to the negative side of the spectrum, but not quite enough to totally put me off this series.

From what I recall (I read Parasol Protectorate a couple years ago), Alexia’s voice had a humor that was a bit less completely off-the-wall. Some of Rue’s metaphors completely don’t make any sense, and, while that does sort of fit her, it’s not my favorite thing. Sometimes though the humor’s totally on point, and it’s very much the best thing about Prudence.

Prudence is the daughter of Parasol Protectorate’s Alexia and Conall, but, because of some weird agreement due to her being a metanatural (able to become a vampire or shifter temporarily by touching one) was raised primarily by Lord Akeldama. As a fan of Alexia and Conall’s ship (fiercely in the first book and frustratedly thereafter), it’s a bit sad to see that they couldn’t be a family, but hey family has a lot of shapes and Rue’s happy and very loved, so I guess that works.

Gifted a fancy, farting airship for her birthday by Akeldama, Prudence assembles a group of friends/enemies as her crew and sets off for India to acquire tea for Lord Akeldama. Along the way, the simple mission turns into a dangerous one as they get caught in the middle of tensions between local paranormal elements.

In theory, I guess I like the plot, but I found it problematic in execution. The main cast is all white, and they go cruising to the colonies and proceed to be confused and offended if anyone ever says anything against England’s benevolent governing. Clearly, Rue’s going to learn that maybe colonization isn’t that great for the colonized as the series goes by, but I was cringing. I cringed even harder when the shifters in India turned out to be were-monkeys. One POC is added to the main cast, Tasherit, who is a were-lioness. I do really like her, and the clear attraction between her and Rue’s bestie Primrose.

Though I like that there’s an increased effort at diversity here, there’s a lot of room to improve. Prudence didn’t quite come together, but I did enjoy the audiobook enough to carry on.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


Series Review: The Custard Protocol, books 1-2 by Gail CarrigerImprudence by Gail Carriger
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Length: 12 hrs, 7 mins
Series: The Custard Protocol #2
Published by Hachette Audio on July 19, 2016
Genres: Steampunk, Romance, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Historical
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-stars

London is in chaos.

Rue and the crew of The Spotted Custard returned from India with revelations that shook the foundations of the scientific community. There is mass political upheaval, the vampires are tetchy, and something is seriously wrong with the local werewolf pack. To top it all off, Rue’s best friend Primrose keeps getting engaged to the most inappropriate military types.

Rue has got personal problems as well. Her vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is crazy, and her obstreperous mother is both. Worst of all, Rue’s beginning to suspect what they all really are… is frightened.

When the Custard is ordered to Egypt, transporting some highly unusual passengers, Rue’s problems go from personal to impossible. Can she get Percy to stop sulking? Will she find the true cause of Primrose’s lovesickness? And what is Quesnel hiding in the boiler room?

Imprudence improves a bit on Prudence, but this series still doesn’t reach the heights of Soulless. The strongest part of Soulless, and the reason I loved that first book so much, was the amazing chemistry between Alexia and Conall. Rue and Quesnel don’t totally work for me as a ship. He’s so much older than her, and actually knew her when she was wee and he was pretty much grown, which icks me out. I do like the fact that she asks him for “french lessons” and he’s super into her and she’s initially into the sexy times but not emotionally connected. The tropes are very much ones I’m into, but they just don’t totally do it for me. Perhaps it’s all of his little French endearments for her?

Meanwhile, I’d love a book from the perspective of either Prim or Tasheret, because that ship is very interesting, and there’s a shortage of good f/f in the world. There’s some good tension between them here, but Prim still hasn’t accepted her feelings yet. By far, these two are my favorite part of this series and there’s no way I could quit while I wait for this airship to set sail through the clouds.

Plot-wise, Imprudence is an improvement, but it still mostly feels like a bunch of white people adventuring through “exotic” lands for fun. The villains are once again POCs, but we do acquire a couple new POC cast members. It’s nice to have a non-European setting, but it all feels a bit like it’s going for the romantic, fetishy version of these cultures, rather than being an actual nuanced portrayal of them.

My mixed feelings continue, but the audiobook was fun, and I will continue to read this series as they come out, I’m sure.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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