(The Custard Protocol #1)
Release: March 17, 2015
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?Review:
When we last saw Alexia Maccon's daughter Prudence, now called Rue, in Gail Carriger's Timeless (Parasol Protectorate #5) she was a precocious two year-old. Now she's all grown up, though not necessarily better behaved. Rue and her best friend Primrose Tunstall, daughter of Alexia's best friend Ivy, are about to embark on a tea-finding mission on behalf of Rue's adopted father Lord Akeldama. He's given her a new dirigible, which she has painted like a ladybug and named the Spotted Custard, and she's hired a crew that includes Prim's twin brother Percy and Quesnell Lafoux, son of Genevieve and Rue's childhood crush. But their trip to India uncovers much more than tea. Rue is soon drawn into a centuries-old conflict between India's supernatural creatures.
The first thing that struck me while reading this book is how differently Rue sees her parents and their peers than her mother did, even though the characters themselves are much the same. Alexia still addresses her twenty-something daughter as "infant." So Rue is, somewhat understandably, intimidated by her mother and often imagines Alexia disapproving of her antics.
It was so odd to see Biffy referred to as Mr. Rabiffano and to see Rue speculate about how he became a werewolf when I already know the story. (See Blameless.) In fact, there are several characters whose history I knew but Rue did not. For example, I know that her engineer Miss Phinkerlington seems to hate her on sight because they are cousins and Alexia's mother's side of the family has fallen in status since the events in the short story The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn't, the Mummy that Was, and the Cat in the Jar. I enjoyed seeing all these characters again, but I wonder if it might be better to go in to Prudence without so much background knowledge. I sometimes got frustrated with Rue for not knowing things.
Despite all the characters that carry over, I actually think Prudence feels much more like Carriger's Finishing School series than The Parasol Protectorate. Between the dirigible travel and all of the action scenes, Rue's much more like Sophronia than Alexia. Some of that is also a product of her youth, though Prudence is not YA, and the sense that she is making things up as she goes along, where Alexia is much more bound by society's rules. Because she's so spontaneous and unpredictable, Rue is a lot of fun.
Prudence also feels very much like a shifter story, despite all of the main characters having been raised by vampires, since Rue often uses her metanatural ability, stealing the form of a nearby supernatural, to get her out of trouble. For the first time, Carriger introduces new types of supernaturals into this world and I'm curious whether the crew of the Spotted Custard will continue to encounter more as they travel.
There's a single scene in Prudence that's not told from Rue's point of view. Lord and Lady Maccon watching the Spotted Custard take off nearly had me in tears. That scene and my previous knowledge Rue's family made me wish for more scenes in London. (Some of the Parasol Protectorate books were structured that way.) I can understand the decision not to do that with Prudence though, since this is a new series. It might not make sense to someone new to this world. But I really want more Biffy, so I'm still hoping to see more of London later in the series.
I enjoyed Prudence, even though it was not exactly what I expected. I'm excited about the potential relationship between Rue and Quesnell. And I like the direction the series seems to be headed at the end of the book. I'm looking forward to finding out what's next for these characters in Imprudence.
Recommended for fans of: The Finishing School series, shifter adventures, dirigibles and tea