Prudence by Gail Carriger

Clementine could use a few manners.
Clementine could use a few manners.

Narrator: Moira Quirk

Publisher: Hachette Audio (2015)

Length: 12 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 1 Custard Protocol

Author’s Page

The metanatural Rue and her friends are on a mission for Queen and Country! And tea, of course. Prudence Alessandra Macon Akeldama (Rue) has been gifted an airship, which she charmingly names the Spotted Custard. She’s also been given a charge, and that is to fly off to India on a mission of secrecy – it involves tea. There’s proper manners and attire, werewolves, tea-time, weremonkeys, and plenty of proper British manners.

Rue and her best friend Primrose (Prim) Tunstall make a great team for mayhem. In fact the opening scene is one where Prim and Rue work together to turn a stuffy British cocktail party into a race through the Victorian London streets. Rue’s metanatural abilities allow her to temporarily ‘borrow’ the powers of a paranormal. For instance, she can become a werewolf (which tears her lovely gown and underthings all to hell) and then Prim can catch a ride on her back as they make a noisy exit from the boring party.

Of course these hijinks are just the latest and Rue’s parents, along with her adoptive vampire father Dama, decide she needs a job. Hence, she’s given a mission that involves tea in India. Rue selects Prim, of course, to accompany her but then also Prim’s bookish brother Percy. Toss in the intense Quesnel Lefoux, who Percy detests, and you have quite the madcap company for the trip. The crew who actually do all the work are quite fun as well, not giving a fig if the passengers are practically nobility or not.

This was a my first Gail Carriger book and it was so much fun! It was light and silly and full of adventure and flowery phrases that just had me giggling. Maybe I was just in the right mood for this book, but I really did get a kick out of it. There’s some light flirting between Rue and Quesnel but there’s also some pond tossing that comes up as well. It’s a love/hate thing and very amusing.

There’s a bit of a steampunk flavor to this story but it’s not a heavy element of the tale. Of course the dirigible is fun. I enjoyed all the action scenes because they were often had some bits of comedy involved. I especially enjoyed Percy and his hunt for mushrooms. He was delightfully bookish.

Once the Spotted Custard gets to India, things change as the local paranormal citizens checkout the Londoners. There’s plenty here that surprised me! It’s a whole different rule book and Rue and Prim have to do some improvising, even if it means ticking off the local English gentry. I was entertained throughout the entire book and I look forward to reading more Carriger novels in the future.

The Narration: Moira Quirk was so good in this book! She’s the perfect Rue but she’s also the perfect Prim and the perfect Dama and the perfect Percy! She’s got these English characters down to a T. I loved her light lisp for Dama as I could totally picture him talking and every so often on certain syllables, a touch of a lisp due to this teeth. I loved her distracted Percy, his head always in a book. She really did a most excellent job with this narration. 

What I Liked: The dirigible; proper English manners tossed out the window again and again; all the humor; plenty of action; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing! This was such a fun book!

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Luxor was ambushed by this book.
Luxor was ambushed by this book.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Peter Berkrot

Publisher: Hachette Audio (2012)

Length: 9 hours 30 minutes

Author’s Page

Meet Balthazar, a thieve, occasional murderer, and con artist. From a young age, he has used his wits and flexible morals to keep himself fed and alive. He joined forces with two other criminals while in Herod’s dungeons, fleeing on camelback. They stopped to rest at a barn, only to find a slip of woman, who had recently given birth, and her husband pointing a pitchfork at them menacingly. That’s right. The three wise men mentioned in the bible were criminals in disguise and on the run.

I do believe this has become my favorite Baby Jesus story. I really enjoyed the author’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but found his other famous work Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to be rather boring. I am glad to say that I  found this book to be pretty entertaining. I was a little worried that it would be too religious for me. But that was not the case at all.

The story is pretty gritty.  It’s a rough time historically. There’s no indoor plumbing, you have to work pretty hard for your food and shelter, and might makes right. Balthazar is a really interesting character. You don’t have to like him to be intrigued. Pretty soon he becomes known as the Antioch Ghost, being Syrian and able to flit about stealing this bit of jewelry here and that bit of coin there. Alas, he ends up on Herod’s radar and he whips his little army into a frenzy to catch the Antioch Ghost.

In Herod’s dungeons, he meets two other criminals, Gaspar and Melchyor. The three of them make a plan and escape, complete with disguises and camels. It looks like the worst is behind them, until they meet Mary and Joseph and their newborn and get caught up in Herod’s blood lust for the baby. The fighting does contain gory bits, which makes it that much more real and also shows the clear motivation for our characters to either fight or flee.

My one little criticism is one I am sure many can guess: the female characters are few and far between. Early on, there is a lady sex object that Balthazar cons out of some baubles. Then there is Mary, who starts off mute then moves to timid and eventually finds a small voice. Later in the story, there is Sela, who is a fortune teller. She is the most fleshed out of the female characters but since she comes into the story so late, we have only a little time with her. I would have liked to see a better gender balance.

OK, so back to the good stuff. I loved the humor, which was often harsh. The author doesn’t flinch from keeping things real. There is very little reverence in this story and even when you get a few touches of it, there’s still plenty of room for a reader’s personal interpretation. For instance, Balthazar doesn’t believe that Mary was a virgin, but he is most definitely against Herod and his men killing babies. Balthazar is very skeptical about any mystical or religious significance that Mary and Joseph attach to their son and for the story, this comes off as very practical.

As their adventures become more dire and injuries and deaths occur, Balthazar starts to wonder if there is some divine power helping them along. Yet if he considers that, then he has to consider if there is some malevolent force assisting Herod in his hunt for baby Jesus. I really liked that the author left the determination of this up to the reader. At the beginning of the story, I didn’t like Balthazar but he was interesting. By the end, I felt he deserved a pat on the back, a chilled beer, and a month’s worth of rest.

Narration: Peter Berkrot did a really good job with this book. He had a variety of accents and kept all his characters distinct. His voice for Balthazar was the best and he put a lot of emotion in to all the right places. While there were only a few lady characters, his female voices were believable. His voice for the spoiled, angry Herod was also well done.

What I Liked: Retelling of a classic religious story; nitty gritty; Balthazar is not a good man, but he does a good deed; the camels; plenty left up to reader’s interpretation.

What I Disliked: So few female characters!

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