Book Review: Reticence by Gail Carriger

Posted August 28, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Reticence 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.

Reticence by Gail Carriger
Genres: Historical, Fantasy, Steampunk
Published by Orbit on August 6, 2019
Pages: 339
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, Competence, Changeless, Blameless , Heartless , Timeless

Fourth and last in The Custard Protocol historical fantasy steampunk series (a sequel series to The Finishing School and then The Parasol Protectorate) revolving around the misfit crew of The Spotted Custard. The couple focus is on Prof Percy Tunstell and Dr Arsenic Ruthven.

My Take

It’s all about tolerance and acceptance, and I love this comment about that superiority too many people feel about themselves, their country:

“We failed even to understand there might be others. Supernaturals are not the same the world over. Any more than countries, governments, or people are the same. Our failure as a nation is in thinking not only that our method is best, but that it is the ‘only’ option.”

All three series have been too funny with Carriger’s unique take on steampunk and the paranormal, as she pokes fun at society’s rules and expectations.

And Reticence gets off to a fun start with Arsenic’s nervous moments before her interview. More fun bursts out with Percy’s being forced to wear old-fashioned clothing, which turns out to be Alessandro’s!

Rue and Quesnel’s wedding reception is a total crack-up and an “up yours” to English society as the sexes mix and match on the dance floor. Their guests certainly aren’t the norm, lol.

And of course the older generation goes on about how this new generation is so bad, at which Arsenic spouts back that “…all our drama might be construed as your generation’s fault”.

More fun is watching Percy try to figure out why he reacts as he does to Arsenic, and then tries to figure out the rules of courtship. And don’t forget…this is the Victorian age with all its worries about…nakedness, so you’ll love those communal baths in Japan, lol.

It took me a bit to figure it all out, but there’s a fascinating — and brief! — look at what caused the God-Breaker Plague with a bit of back history on Akeldama and Tash. Makes me want Carriger to do a prequel series!

As for point-of-view, Carriger combines third person dual and third person global subjective. The majority perspective is through Arsenic and Percy with the occasional thought/experience from a few of the other primary characters.

There’s less drama and excitement in Reticence, although it’s still a story driven by its characters whose nature creates all the action, as The Spotted Custard crew careens through Egypt to outlandish adventures in Japan with Carriger incorporating the past history of Commodore Perry forcing the xenophobic Japan to open up to the West.

There’s an odd paragraph talking about pairings, with its last sentence the most confusing, about “…humans, they married humans“. Well, yeah…? Carriger is perfectly fine with same sex pairings in the core characters as well. Yay for Carriger!

It’s an unusual “family”, and you can’t help but love them for their eccentricity, loyalty, and love for each other. As a family, each unusual character has found a place to belong, to be wanted.

The epilogue ends in 1901 with a passage from Lord Akeldama’s memoirs that include mention of that game played for love.

The Story

The Spotted Custard needs a doctor. Well, after the past excitements, a doctor is a necessity. And Dr Ruthven is hired the day of Rue and Quesnel’s wedding with their honeymoon to follow in Egypt. Sort of.

It’s in Egypt that Percy’s inside information is confirmed: The Custard is going to Japan to rescue a spy and search out the elusive fox shifters!

The Characters

Dr Arsenic Ruthven is a woman doctor who received most of her training on the battlefield in South Africa. Preshea Ruthven is her notorious mother, a retired assassin who taught her children everything she knows (Finishing School). Prof Belladonna Ruthven, a botanist, is one of Arsenic’s sisters.

The socially awkward Prof Percy “Sniffles” Tunstell is the ship’s navigator with a passion for research and publishing papers. He’s also brother to the Honorable Primrose “Tiddles” Tunstell who has a passion for crazy hats and is the ship’s purser in charge of shipboard household and supply logistics. Footnote is Percy’s cat. The slightly ruthless Virgil is Percy’s very strict valet and the backup navigator.

The Spotted Custard is…
…a fantastical airship painted to look like a ladybug and gifted to Rue by her vampire father. Its mission appears to be that of finding new supernatural creatures. The Porcini is a smaller craft, a dropsy. The now-pregnant Rue, Lady Akeldama, a.k.a., Lady Captain, is about to marry Quesnel. The father who raised her is Lord Akeldama, a.k.a., Alexander whose spy name is Goldenrod, a gay vampire who is notorious for his flashy style of dress (The Parasol Protectorate). Quesnel Lefoux is Rue’s fiancé and in charge of engineering with the sooties, greasers, and firemen reporting to him. Rodrigo Tarabotti is Rue’s preternatural cousin and a reformed assassin who gained a soul and married Anitra, a Drifter. (S)he’s also one of Akeldama’s spies and was adopted by Floote as his granddaughter. Tasherit “Tash” Sekhmet is a werelioness who is first mate and in charge of military matters; she and Prim are a couple.

Alexia, Lady Maccon, is Rue’s preternatural mother (Soulless, 1). Conall, Lord Maccon, the former alpha of the London Pack, is her birth father, and a werewolf going mad who must live in Egypt. And can never leave. Ossobuco is their cat. Mrs Loontwill, née Phingerlington, is Alexia’s snooty mother. Aunt Evylin is Alexia’s half-sister. Alessandro Tarabotti, a rogue of a preternatural, had been Alexia’s father. Formerly Floote is the tethered ghost of Alexia’s and her father’s butler, a man with a mission. Spoo is a girl and the head deckhand. Bork and Willard are deckhands. Aggie Phinkerlington is the crabby head greaser.

The Kingair Pack is…
…based in Scotland and led by Sidheag Maccon, Lady Kingair, and Conall’s great-great-great-granddaughter.

Madame Lefoux is Quesnel’s mother, an inventor, and a teacher in The Finishing School series, so it’s no surprise that Quesnel is so good at mechanicals. Miss Imogene is her life partner. Aunt Softy, a.k.a., Great-aunt Sophronia, Grandmother Petunia‘s younger sister, is an intelligencer, as is Sidheag, both from The Finishing School). It seems that this group of spies have been conspiring about The Spotted Custard‘s crew, hmmm… Wallflower, a.k.a., Agatha (The Finishing School), is an intelligencer of Goldenrod’s who has gone missing in Japan.

The London Pack
Biffy, Lord Falmouth, is their Alpha now, London’s first Alpha dandy. Professor Lyall is his Beta. Major Channing is his Gamma.

The Wimbledon Hive is…
…based in London and led by Percy and Prim’s mother, the silly, fashion-obsessed Ivy, Baroness Tunstell (Hisselpenny was her maiden name), a vampire queen with her Egyptian vampires. Korpin is her vampire butler. The Tunstells’ actor father is dead.

The Woolsey Hive is…
…based at Woolsey Castle outside London. Lord Ambrose is their representative to the wedding.

Vauxhall Bob is the steampunk version of Vauxhall Gardens. Avagadro’s is a club for intellectuals. Zenobia is a metanatural, a queen, and Akeldama’s daughter. The God-Breaker Plague fluctuates across Egypt and forces supernaturals into their human side. Kitsune power is the ability to befuddle.

I think the Paper City is based in Edo, a city floating above Tokyo. And the only place where foreigners are allowed. Lord Ryuunosuke has a great deal of authority. Lady Sakura is a geisha who is also a hostage and the mortal heart of her people.

Lady Manami, a huli jing (sometimes called a jinweihu) is at the temple.

The Cover and Title

The cover is mostly a background of oranges from the sky with an airship silhouetted against the clouds. Below it is a Japanese temple with its curved roofs with Percy in his centuries-past costume of a blue tailcoat, buff leather breeches, and a blue and red figured vest and navy cravat. He’s standing in profile with his head turned to look behind him, holding a book. At the top right is an epigraph in white. The title is in a deep sky blue angled up from left to right and bordered top and bottom by a steampunk frame of gears and navigational lines. The author’s name is in white, outlined in black. The info blurb is in blue below that.

The title is all Percy, for he is all Reticence when it comes to courtship.

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