Series: The Custard Protocol #2
Published by Orbit on July 19th 2016
Genres: Steampunk, Fantasy
Last year I picked up Prudence, the first book of a new series starring the daughter of Alexia Tarabotti and Lord Conall Maccon from Gail Carriger’s celebrated Parasol Protectorate novels. I never did get into Alexia’s series after I dipped my toes into Soulless and realized it was not to my tastes, but the story of Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama AKA “Rue” was entirely a different matter. My first outing with her and the crew of The Spotted Custard was an adventure of courage, comedy, and discovery which I enjoyed a lot more than I expected. And so, craving more of the same from this sequel, I dove into Imprudence with enthusiasm.
This book takes place in the aftermath of Rue’s return to London from India. The entire country is still reeling from knowledge she and her friends brought back from deep in the mysterious jungles, and our protagonist has even gotten a severe dressing-down from the Queen herself. Rue, however, is unperturbed, excited to finally reach her majority and to enjoy all the freedoms that will no doubt come with it.
What she doesn’t realize though, is how much her life is about to change. Lord Maccon, Rue’s werewolf father, has been in bad shape lately, much to his wife’s consternation. As the London pack prepares to elevate a new Alpha, Lady Maccon devises a plan to take her husband to Egypt where she hopes the God Breaker Plague would help him live out the rest of his life in peace. And it just so happens that Rue’s dirigible, The Spotted Custard, has recently been outfitted with secret technology developed by young mister Quesnel Lafoux that can help transport an ailing werewolf to his destination.
Imprudence was a highly enjoyable sequel, even though I didn’t like it as much as its predecessor. While Rue is still delightful, and the series is still wildly entertaining, I couldn’t help feeling that this book was a step or two away from some of the things that really worked for me in Prudence. For one, I loved that the first book was focused almost entirely on Rue, while limiting the appearances of the other major characters from Parasol Protectorate series. In contrast, a significant portion of Imprudence was used to continue the story of her biological parents. If you’re a fan of Carriger’s previous series, I’m sure this will be good news. As someone who is unfamiliar with it though, I sometimes found myself lost especially when characters would refer to people or events presumably from Parasol Protectorate, and I also felt that Rue was overshadowed by the drama involving Lord Maccon and Alexia in the first half of this book.
Another thing I really enjoyed about the first book was the light smattering of romance—just enough for me to feel the chemistry between Rue and Quesnel, but not so much that I found it distracting. On the other hand, the romance is a lot stronger in Imprudence. I like a good romantic subplot when it’s secondary to the central story, but in this case I felt it stole a little something away from the main adventure. Rue and Quesnel’s back and forth flirting was really cute, but it also made it so that the book was slower to take off, and the overall plot wasn’t as exciting as the first book.
Still, I would hardly say I was disappointed. All my favorite elements were still there, namely the preposterous humor and the main character’s unique brand of eccentricity which kept the story interesting. I love The Spotted Custard and all the people on board who have become Rue’s family, and I can’t get enough of her and her friends’ antics. I seriously adore Rue and her peppy personality, as well as the way she makes use of her metanatural abilities without letting others’ fears of her powers get her down. It was also great being able to travel to a new place with the crew, and I can’t wait to see where this series will take us next.
That said, you can definitely start The Custard Protocol books without having read the previous series, but I think fans of The Parasol Protectorate will appreciate this novel even more. Imprudence has many ties to those older stories and characters, which I was mostly unfamiliar with. I wish I’d known a bit more about Rue’s relationship with her parents, for example, or that I understood the story’s background a little better, like the history behind Egypt and the God Breaker Plague, etc. Still, even in spite of the missing gaps in my knowledge, I had a blast. I hope we’ll be getting plenty of books starring Rue for many more years to come.