Form: e-book, Kindle edition
Genre: fantasy steampunk
Target audience: YA and adults who like such novels (like me)
Lord Conall Maccon, the Alfa of London werewolf pack and his lovely perternatural wife, Alexia nee Tarabotti, are planning a visit to Egypt. They have to – a very old vampire queen from Alexandria, called Matakara, invited them along. If somebody like her bothers to send an invitation you simply can’t say ‘no’ – the consequences might be…well, bloody.
Matakara is especially interested in little Prudence, Alexia’s daughter and not without a good reason – the little girl can do more than she can say, especially using full sentences. In order to keep the real reason of their journey hidden, Alexia takes with herself her old friend Ivy Hisselpenny Tunstell with her lovely hubby, her twins and a part of their theatrical troupe. Ivy and Tunstell have a new play in their repertoire – a spectacular love story between a werewolf and a vampire queen. It fits only too well what will happen to them in Egypt…
What I liked:
Little Prudence and Biffy stole the show – they were two major highlights of this book. Prudence is not only a toddler who can change into a vampire and/or a werewolf, wreaking havoc and having a great time, she also hates baths and for a very good reason (I can’t tell, it’s a spoiler). Her parents and her foster parent, Lord Akeldama, are hardly a match for her – their hands are always full of this girl. A scary thought – Prudence will be a teenager soon. Speak about an ultimate parental challenge.
Biffy exceeded my wildest expectations – not only he managed to find his place in the pack (previously being rather more fond of vampires, I can’t tell more because it would be a spoiler) but also he found a new love interest and one of his abilities proved you shouldn’t judge a man by his cravat or by his waistcoat. I really appreciate such twists in fiction, especially when they are not entirely serious.
What’s more, I liked the setting of this one (Egypt) although I grieve to say it wasn’t explored to the full. More in the next section.
What I didn’t like:
It pains me to admit it but in my humble opinion the last installment of this series is also the weakest. It seems the author, who previously kept rather high writing standards, spoiling her readers mercilessly, ran out of steam. On the one hand I do understand – it is the fifth Alexia novel after all, how many new things you can think of… On the other hand it is a pity – perhaps it would be better if the whole series was one-two books shorter.
First of all the steampunk factor, so deliciously explored in previous books, here is almost non-existent. An example: in the first part Alexia was attacked by deadly mechanical ladybugs and barely escaped. The whole scene was a hoot. Here the same ladybugs are nothing more than a toy for her two-year-old daughter (and some other equally childish adults as well). See the difference? Another example: in the first novel Alexia became a happy owner of a not very beautiful or stylish but otherwise extremely useful parasol. A very important accessory as it saved her life many times. In the last book her husband orders a substitute (as the first was destroyed) and Alexia uses it…once or twice – so barely at all, as if she didn’t need it anymore. Sad but true, substitutes never work.
Then Egypt. It is a perfect setting for such a fantasy steampunk novel: full of old ruins, mysterious monuments and intriguing secrets from the past. Our Alexia should have had plenty of fun there, right? Wrong. She gets dusty, goes up in a balloon and…she is thrown into the Nile. She sees the temple of Hatshepsut, half buried in the sand ( and very rightly so, it was excavated and restored only in the 20thcentury but still such a pity) and is promptly chased away. No pyramids, no sphinxes, just one old vampire queen and even she, the famous, horribly old, horribly scary Matakara, barely speaks or moves or kills. She dies. Kind of anticlimactic, you must admit.
Overall reading this one I felt a bit sad – it was supposed to be a glass of fine wine; unfortunately it tasted as if that wine was heavily diluted and then doctored a bit, sweetened and scented. Oh well, I’ve always knew ending a series is definitely more tricky than starting it.
I am also not a very big fan of the cover art. Why feature a sphinx or the pyramids if Alexia never gets close to them?
If you liked the series like yours truly you will read the last installment anyway. Timeless wasn’t very bad, especially compared to other books of this genre, but, compared to other Parasol Protectorate books I found it a bit wishy-washy.