I adore Gail Carriger’s FINISHING SCHOOL series, but I’m not a big fan of her related series (THE PARASOL PROTECTORATE and THE CUSTARD PROTOCOL). They’re just too silly for me, with their focus on fashion and frivolity. I can see why others like them, though. They are unique, creative, and well written with some great characters. They’re just not my thing.
However, I did want to read the final CUSTARD PROTOCOL book, Reticence, because it stars Percy, one of my favorite Carriger characters. Percy is the bookish navigator of the airship The Spotted Custard, which is captained by Prudence, whose sexual awakening we witnessed in the second CUSTARD PROTOCOL novel, Imprudence. Percy is also twin brother to the ship’s purser, Primrose, whose romance was the focus of the last book, Competence. I figured that Percy would be pairing up with someone in this next book and I wanted to know what kind of woman would sweep him off his feet.
Her name is Arsenic Ruthven and she’s a former military doctor whose having trouble finding a job as a physician because she’s a woman and she dresses “outrageously suffrage.” The Spotted Custard, one of the most unconventional and progressive institutions in its Victorian society, is happy to take her aboard. Despite her daring wardrobe, which contains skirts that show her ankles, Arsenic is just as nerdy and awkward as Percy is, so it’s fun to watch their romance develop. It includes a lot of reading in libraries and scientific speculation, with a cat in attendance. (Is it any wonder that Percy is my favorite character?)
There’s a plot, of course, but like the plots of the other CUSTARD PROTOCOL novels, it isn’t that important. It involves going to Japan, discovering another type of shape-shifter (that Percy will want to write a scholarly paper about), and encountering a dragon and a volcano. A floating paper city makes a great setting.
Carriger’s fans will appreciate all the Easter eggs in Reticence. Arsenic turns out to be the daughter of one of the FINISHING SCHOOL girls and there are visitations from several other favorite FINISHING SCHOOL and PARASOL PROTECTORATE characters, too.
One of the best things about Carriger’s stories is that the audiobooks are read by the incredibly talented Moira Quirk who totally owns these stories. I can’t even describe how good these Hachette productions are, you just have to hear them. You can do that by clicking “Audible Sample” on the Amazon page.
You had me at Reticence and Arsenic.