Changeless  - Gail Carriger, Emily Gray

Alexia Tarabotti has moved from the social wilderness her spinsterhood, unfortunately dark complexion (courtesy of her Italian father), her overly-endowed figure and her status as a preternatural (also know as curse-breaker or soul-sucker) had condemned her, to the centre of society by her transformation into Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, wife to the most powerful werewolf in England.

 

Gail Carriger uses this transformation to continue to twist steampunk Victorian tropes into something new and wryly amusing while still fundamentally human and engaging (even if the "humans" are, for the most part, werewolves and vampires).

 

There is rumbustious, satisfying and frequent marital sex, above and beyond the call of duty. There is an ancient curse that afflicts only the supernatural. There are big, hairy Scottish men in pretty tartan skirts. There is a hatshop that is more than it seems and a cross-dressing French milliner who makes Alexia's skin tingle in the most surprising way. There are parties to unwrap Egyptian mummies and long-standing werewolf feuds up the Highlands of Scotland. There are dirigibles, bizzare communication devices and weaponised parasols.

 

"Changeless" charges along like Alexia Maccon herself, powered by good-humoured confidence, buoyed by a loving, sexually satisfying marriage and focused on sorting out the whole curse thing with the minimum amount of fuss.

 

The whole thing is great fun, right up to the final chapters, when facts  emerge, the reaction to which sweeps away the very foundation of Lady Maccon's world.

 

"Changeless" is a remarkable achievement in sustaining a humorous tone despite dealing with serious matters, while delivering a plot that continues to surprise and characters that grow more vivid by the page.