Book Review: Competence by Gail Carriger

December 5, 2018 Book Reviews 11

Book Review: Competence by Gail Carriger

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Competence by Gail Carriger
Genres: Steampunk, YA
Published by Orbit on July 17, 2018
Pages: 309
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library
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Also by this author: Curtsies & Conspiracies, Etiquette and Espionage, Waistcoats & Weaponry, Manners & Mutiny, Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Prudence, Imprudence, Reticence

Third in The Custard Protocol steampunk series for Young Adult readers and revolving around Lady Prudence Akeldama and the crew of the Spotted Custard, as they head for Peru. The character focus is on the very organized Primrose and the intellectual Percy, as they explore their particular weaknesses.

My Take

The ship may revolve around Pru, but this story comes from Primrose’s perspective in a contrast between her and Percy with a sidebar on Anitra. Percy so perfectly represents the average man who keeps putting his foot in it while Primrose is trying so very hard to be oblivious to Tash’s courtship and her own feelings. Although Carriger does use third person global subjective point-of-view with various characters chiming in with their own thoughts and emotions.

It’s a story of being true to yourself, being honest and not caring what society expects of one. Of being who you are. I love, love, love it, when Percy tells her that “Oh, Tiddles, no one minded except you.”

Primrose has her turn to impress everyone, as well as to explore her inner thoughts, just as Percy does wonder about himself. (Primrose is concerned that his priorities are messed up, what with believing that his reputation and discoveries are more important than anything else.)

We discover how very competent Primrose is, partly due to her need to present everything well and keep the socializing well oiled.

I started out laughing, and just kept on going. Prim’s adventures with the interested Tash were so, um, uncomfortable, and yet Prim certainly rose to the occasion, and I also appreciate Carriger’s slow rise in this romance.

There are several storylines tangling about what with Percy attempting to sway Rodrigo from his evil doings through exposure to logic and philosophy, Primrose’s romantic entanglement that is so socially unacceptable, Rue’s mission to save the Peruvian vampires, and just a taste of the social upheaval society is experiencing now that they know that women can be the predominant half of a species.

There is a lot of foot shuffling over Anitra’s status in life. She doesn’t expect to marry unless it is to a widower with children. In fact, she never expected to love at all. In fact, I had not expected to come across any LGBT arcs in Carriger’s work, and she handles it very well in here. Parents may be concerned because it is a part of the character interactions, but it’s very tastefully done.

All right…I’ve got a quibble. Why wouldn’t Rue have subconsciously known the proper way to visit vampires? She’s been raised by a very correct vampire since she was a baby. How could she have forgotten? For that matter, what about Primrose? She says she used to have to visit Nadasy’s court, so wouldn’t she also know?

The Story

Once Miss Primrose Tunstell has rescued the crew and airship, The Spotted Custard, in a most embarrassing scheme involving Tasherit and a fake fish tail, Primrose and Rue decode the parameters of their mission: to save at-risk vampires in Peru.

Along the way, they encounter airship pirates and strange atmospheric phenomena, and are mistaken for representatives of the Spanish Inquisition. Forced into extreme subterfuge (and some rather ridiculous outfits) Prim must also answer three of life’s most challenging questions:

  1. Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul?
  2. Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez?
  3. And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species?

The Characters

The Honourable Miss Primrose Tunstell, a.k.a., The Ledger, as the daughter of Ivy Tunstell, particularly feels it quite necessary to always look properly turned out. As the purser, organizer, and best friend of the captain, she is quite essential to the crew. She’s also twins with the very academic Professor Percival “Percy” Tunstell, the Custard‘s navigator, who despises people and works quite hard at being stoic. (He calls his sister “Tiddles“.) Virgil is his devoted valet who does his best to keep Percy groomed and properly dressed. Footnote is Percy’s cat.

Miss Tasherit Sekhmet, a lion shifter, knows what she wants

Aboard The Spotted Custard are…
Captain Prudence Akeldma, a metanatural who can take on the soul of another is a.k.a., Hot Cross Bun, whose vampire father gave her the ship. Quesnel Lefoux is a brilliant Frenchman and the chief engineer whose mother was (not technically) Madame Genevieve Lefoux from The Parasol Protectorate. Aggie Phinkerlington is the head greaser who dislikes Rue and is generally rude to everyone. Spoo (she is friends with Virgil); Willard; and, Bork, a former boxer, are deckhands. Jane is one of the maids.

Anitra Floote, their new cultural liaison and interpreter from the Drifters, is aboard with her “grandfather” Formerly Floote, yep, the butler who first showed up in Changeless, 2, who had been Alexia’s father’s valet, then her mother’s butler, and now keeping an eye on Rue.

The Italian Rodrigo Tarabotti, Rue’s cousin and another preternatural, tried to kidnap Rue in Imprudence, 2, and now he’s their prisoner.

Singapore
Captain Lu is a guard at Wheystation Alpha.

Peru is…
…where the pishtacos, Peruvian vampires, are in danger of being wiped out. Cauac is the guardian of this nest and his nestmates include Paucar, Yurac, Suhay, Mullu, and Auqui Acebo. Their queen is Madera Acebo, from whom they all take their last name. They call the soulless, Pachacutec, he who changes the world.

England
Lieutenant Normal Plonks is but one of many fiancés Prim has acquired. And throughout the story, we discover what makes him so perfect, lol .

Baroness Ivy Tunstell is Primrose and Percy’s quite eccentric mother with a passion for the most deplorable hats, and, well, she’s also the accidental vampire queen of the Wimbledon Hive in London. Gahiji is one of Ivy’s vampires who took Percy and Primrose in hand. Uncle Lyall has returned to England. Major Channing is in charge of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry these days. The Shadow Council advises the queen on supernatural matters.

Lord “Dama” Akeldama, Rue’s legal “father” (Heartless, 4), is a rove vampire, and the potentate on the Shadow Council.

Egypt
Aunt Alexia, a soulless preternatural, and Lord Conall Maccon, the former Alpha of the London Pack, now live in Egypt where they are into tea.

The Parasol Protectorate is…
…an espionage ring created by Lady Maccon. Any coded letters will require Honeysuckle Isinglass‘ embarrassing tome, Sand and Shadows on a Sapphire Sea: My Adventures Abroad.

Lavoisier was a scientist interested in the chemical and physical nature of shifter physiology. An Ay is a male in the eyes of Drifter society while an aravani is a female in their eyes. Rakshasas are Indian vampires who prefer to eat carrion (Prudence, 1).

The Cover and Title

The cover is a brilliant turquoise with Cuzco in the background with a dirigible floating above the city. It’s Primrose who gains our attention this time, and she’s looking quite competent with her reddish-brown hair done up, a bright yellow umbrella furled and resting on the shoulder of her lime green outfit trimmed in orange. It’s the net gloves that really finish it off. An info blurb is at the top right in white while the title is on an angle just below Primrose’s waist in the same green as her dress but outlined in black. The same green is used for another info blurb at the very bottom. The series information is in white outlined in black just below the title and on the same upward angle as that title — and thank you for adding on that this is book 3! The author’s name is also in white outlined in black just below this. Framing the title, series, and author’s name are a series of elaborate yet simple white lines that curl around themselves at the end and that include a variety of white gears.

The title is all about Primrose, the personification of proper Competence.

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11 Responses to “Book Review: Competence by Gail Carriger”

  1. Jessica

    Ooh, colour me intrigued! This sounds very fun and quite different from what I’ve been reading more of recently. I’m loving that cover–the colours are really appealing–and am feeling like I need to read this ASAP.

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