Friday, 31 August 2018

Review: Competence

Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Accidentally abandoned!

All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail.

When she uncovers rumors of a new kind of vampire, Prim and the Custard crew embark on a mission to Peru. There, 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:
Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul?
Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez?
And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species? 

I'm 99% sure that when I reviewed the previous book in this series, I was begging for there to be two new books?! Because originally...this was supposed to be a duology but Gail obviously heard my prayers and now we get two more books...and I couldn't be more thrilled! I think this series is my favourite after the original Parasol Protectorate series and I love the crew of the Spotted Custard! 

It would seem these next two books focus on Prudence's BFF Primrose rather than Rue herself, which I didn't actually realise. It's been a while since I read the other two and I had to scramble a bit to catch up and remember what the situation was! In an ideal world I'd have been able to have a nice little re-read! 

It was nice to get to see Prim front and centre this book and get to know her a bit better, she's Rue's partner in crime. I honestly really, really wanted to shake her throughout this book because she was being so blind and obtuse about Tash and even a bit rude honestly. It says a lot that Percy was the one talking sense, but I did like her journey of self discovery and coming to terms with who she really is as a person, and becoming less concerned with the done thing. I might not love her as much as Rue...I have to say. I did rather miss Rue's narrative voice. 

We get both Prim's POV and her brother Percy's, and Percy's was absolutely hilarious. I just found something about his narrative and his thoughts on the other characters completely hilarious. Plus he's relatable in the sense he's a book nerd and doesn't really like being around other people. He has to go to his library to recharge, as it where. 

All the characters I loved in the previous book are back, Tasherit the werecat who I really do love, she's such a badass and kind of adorable in her own little way. When she's not ripping people's throats out. I got to see my OTP Rue and Quesnel...I got all excited whenever I got to see a cute moment between the two of them, but it didn't stop me from wishing for more. They're going strong and they're still my favourite ship, but it did make me a bit sad we didn't get Rue's POV and get to see more of them. 

We also have Rodrigo. You might remember him from the previous book, he's Rue's cousin...casually tried to kidnap/murder her. He's now joined our gang and everyone is working to reform him via a book club. As you do. He goes from prisoner to finally being included as one of the crew, and it was nice to see that journey for him. He nearly killed Quesnel so I was a bit salty towards him for a while. But I did end up quite liking him. It was nice to see him get closer to Rue, they where quite alike in a few aspects! I also shipped him with Anitra a lot, and we got a lot more insight in to her because of it!  

The book is steadily paced as Prim saves the Spotted Custard by stealing some helium before they decipher a mission letter and head off to save a species of vampires that's dying out and is the last of its kind. Fat sucking vampires. That's definitely a new one. I kinda wish they existed. 

Gail does us a solid with the LGBTQ rep, we have an F/F romance, and a trans character. This book explores sexuality really well, and we see Prim struggling with her identity and sexuality and it was really well done, especially in this kind of setting. I loved seeing this kind of diversity in the book and Carriger certainly explore it thoroughly. My one issue is that while we got all of this, it seemed to be the main focus of the book, as such this book mostly focused on the romance. I was expecting this combined with the usual adventure, excitement and additional world building. But some of these things seemed to slip as the focus was on the romance. 

I really do love how well Carriger merges all of these elements, and like I said...I was excited to see so much diversity and representation in the just seems like other things where lost as a result of it instead of it being in combination with everything else I usually love about the books. I also think it took me a while to warm up to Prim and I still didn't quite love her as much as previous leading ladies in Carriger's books. She also got my back up a bit when she seemingly made a couple of digs at Rue. I usually blitz through her books in one read but it did take me a while to finish this book because a lot of the time there was Prim faffing about being a ninny about things rather than anything actually happening. We spent a lot of time on the journey to Peru, and then everything in Peru was wrapped up rather quickly. 

I was excited to se how Peru looked in the world of this book, with the supernaturals, as it's probably the closest I'll ever get to actual Peru, but I was a bit sad we didn't get to see more of it. The setting was vividly described and as usual the historical detail was mind blowing, I can't imagine the kind of odd and random things Gail had to Google/enquire about at the library in order to get everything spot on. I also enjoy reading about how the Spotted Custard works too! I can't imagine keeping all this kind of information in my brain. 

The usual sense of adventure does lack a bit, but there are bursts of action, the usual doses of humour, and a heavy amount of romance along with the new ships we get to ship! Carriger excellently explores identity and sexuality and provides plenty of diversity, plus there's a nice little twist at the end that heralds everything coming full circle in the final book and presumably wrapping up! I'm hoping for a return to Rue's narrative, and a return to the usual excellent mix of elements we usually get from Carriger, as the one disappointment was plot being forgotten to focus on romance. 

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