Release Date: March 17, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Genre: Steampunk / Paranormal
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?
Prudence is the first novel in The Custard Protocol series by Gail Garriger. The series is a spin-off of the Parasol Protectorate which featured Alexia Tarabotti-Maccon. Set 20 some years after Alexia's story, which would make it 1896 there or about, Prudence features her all grown up daughter Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama. Rue, as she is called by her friends, is a rather rare breed. She was born of a soulless mother and a werewolf father, while being adopted by a vampire due to the nature of her birth. She is the only Metanatural in the world. She has the ability to "soul-steal" from vampires, and werewolves and shape shift into either one which makes her enemy number one on the supernatural hit parade. Not unlike her mother who has been banded from traveling to various countries.
Rue is best friends, sisters if you will, with Primrose Tunstell, the daughter of Alexia's flighty, fashionably inept best friend who is now Hive Vampire Queen Ivy. Like Ivy and Alexia, Prim and Rue are a dangerous combination. One is spoiled rotten and careless, the other is a fashion plate who cares what society thinks of her. Are you lost yet? If so, I dare say that you should go back and read the Parasol Protectorate, especially the last book where things changed for everyone involved.
Rue is given a job by her adoptive vampire father Lord Akeldama, and a dirigible she names The Spotted Custard (painted to resemble a black and red ladybug). Her job is to travel to India to investigate some tea plants that are desired by Akeldama. Joined by Prim, Prim's twin brother Percy, and Quesnel Lefoux, son of Madame Lefoux, Rue's journey to India is not what it seems, nor does it lack from the usual sarcasm, humor, and often times nonsensical issues of what to wear, and the ghastly horror of wearing a day dress, instead of a walking dress. Shocking, I know.
I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but this story really had a whole lot of issues. Unfortunately, Rue is not remotely like her mother Alexia. She's not prepared in anyway for her supposed role as spy for Akeldama. She has no clue why she was really sent to India, or why her mother agreed to let her go in the first place. When she comes in contact with others, she has that far away look in her eyes like there's nobody home. She stumbles and bumbles her way into discovering a "new" supernatural entity, and then becomes involved in a political pow-pow in order to prevent a catastrophe from happening.
Another one of my issues with Prudence, is Rue's attraction/hatred towards Quensal Lefoux. Lefoux is as brilliant with inventions and engines, as he is with charming the bloomers off ladies. Perhaps because they already have a history with each other. Perhaps because Quensal is the perusal Male rake in a Steampunk/Paranormal setting, it is apparent that Carriger has already lined up Lefoux to become Rue's lover. Thankfully for me, the so called romance was secondary and nearly non existent for most of the story.
What saves this story from ruination for me, is Percy. Percy loves his books. He has a cat named Footnote. He has this strange tendency of luring almost any woman in his vicinity to him even when he's talking about breeding between chili peppers. He's not a world traveler by any means. But, he knows things that nobody else on Rue's crew knows, and helps save the day. Perhaps that was Carriger's intention. By using Percy to take on the serious issues, she allows herself plenty of room for silly scenes between Rue, and Prim.
Lastly, Prudence really doesn't have any sort of plot that I could put together. The last 1/3 of this book was probably the most exciting, and it does have a guest appearance by Lady Sidheag Kinfair, who has also been seen in Carrigers's finishing school series, as well as the mother ship series as the only female werewolf in existence. Perhaps the next book in this series will give Rue a chance to actually improve as a lead character. Perhaps, or perhaps not, we will get a better understanding of why Rue was sent on this journey without being prepared for what was coming at her.