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Literature / The Parasol Protectorate

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The Parasol Protectorate is a series of books by author Gail Carriger. It is primarily a Supernatural Adventure Romance, set in an alternate Victorian London with heavy steampunk elements. In the world of the Parasol Protectorate, not only are vampires, werewolves and ghosts real, but they are instrumental in British politics, fashion and scientific advancement.

The books concentrate on the adventures of Alexia Tarrabotti, a 'plain', sometimes scandalous, half-Italian 'Preternatural' who has the ability to negate supernatural abilities by touch; Lord Conall Maccon, Scottish werewolf and pack Alpha, and their friends and colleagues. These adventures include custom-made weaponised parasols, rogue scientists, dirigibles and 'glassicles'.

The series is being given a manga adaptation by Yen Press.

Gail Carriger has also written The Finishing School Series, aimed at Young Adult readers, set in the same universe 25 years earlier and featuring a few characters from The Parasol Protectorate. A four-book sequel series called The Custard Protocol has also been published. Gail Carriger has also written several stand-alone novellas in the same universe about side characters from the other books, collectively titled the Supernatural Society Novellas.


  1. Soulless
  2. Changeless
  3. Blameless
  4. Heartless
  5. Timeless

The books show examples of:

  • Action Fashionista: Lord Akeldama's band of dandies are quite handy during the Hipocras club debacle. Alexia notes that their fine clothing is cut to hide their musculature. Lord Akeldama is also shown to be a skilled fighter since he a lone vampire and one of the oldest vampires in the series.
  • Action Girl: Neither Alexia nor Madame Lefoux shy away from kicking ass.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: A mild example. Lord Akeldama overcame the vampire aversion to citrus so that he could use lemon juice on his hair.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The manga volumes stay faithful to the novels, but nonetheless manage to distill the best elements of them into a visual medium.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Alexia's mother and stepfather. But mostly her mother. Even Felicity and Evelyn think so.
  • Anti-Magic: Preternaturals.
    • When a preternatural touches a vampire or werewolf, they temporarily become human, losing all the unusual physical features, abilities, and weaknesses until contact is broken. When a preternatural touches the corpse of a ghost, the ghost is immediately exorcised.
    • All that is a matter of common knowledge at the start of the series; over the course of it, several more details are discovered. Preternaturals repel each other, almost with physical force. They're so rare that Alexia had never met another one until she was an adult so she just never had the chance to find out. Both effects work postmortem if the body is preserved, and age, such as mummification, increases both the anti-magic effect and the repellent effect. Also, water reduces the effect. Under normal conditions Alexia could turn a werewolf human by touching him through clothes, but she can hug a werewolf when in wolf form as long as both are swimming.
  • Arc Symbol: The brass octopus, and cephalopods in general. Also the broken ankh. The former definitely crosses over into Sigil Spam territory, and the two collide rather spectacularly in Timeless, with the giant octopus in the sands of Egypt, formed out of preternatural mummies.
  • Baby as Payment: In order to end the attempts on (then-pregnant) Alexia's life, her husband and Lord Akeldama agree that the baby will be adopted and raised by Akeldama. (It's political.) Alexia isn't pleased, but finally agrees to the deal ... though she has regular contact with little Prudence.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Professor Lyall. He's small for a werewolf, and a complete nerd (his professorship is in reference to his expertise on the breeding habits of sheep), but he's the most graceful transformer anyone's ever seen and he's the Beta of Woolsey pack, which means very few other werewolves in England can outfight him. He's also one of the oldest werewolves in England, older than both the dewan and Lord Maccon; that's gotta count for something.
    • Alexia's father accumulated an impressive library which Alexia refers to many times, usually for research related to her job and/or survival, but she also knows far more about anatomy, sex, and the many combinations thereof than a well-bred Victorian young lady should, thanks to her father's books. Her father was an assassin specifically trained to kill supernaturals, and could therefore definitely kick ass.
  • Battle Butler:
    • Floote, in the third book, turns out to be quite a handy shot.
    • In book four, we find out that most of the clavigers are trained how to subdue and capture their werewolf masters. In fact, their main purpose is locking them up during full moon.
  • Battle Couple: Alexia and Conall are formidable the few times they fight together. Lyall and Biffy make a good team as well, though the 'couple' part comes later.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I was a vampire, and acted as potentate to Queen Victoria before Lord Akeldama.
    • In The Custard Protocol series, Lord Akeldama is strongly implied to be none other than Alexander the Great.
    • The Queen of the Alexandria Hive (and one of the oldest vampires in the world) is none other than Queen Hatshepsut, a pharaoh who ruled Egypt in the 15th century BCE.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Alexia Tarrabotti and Lord Conall Maccon. During their first meeting, Miss Tarabotti "prodded him in the nether regions with a hedgehog" (he sat on it) and it only went downhill from there.
  • Beta Couple:
    • Ivy and Tunstell are two side characters that have a romance.
    • In Timeless, the side characters Biffy and Professor Lyall get together too. Pun intended: Both serve as werewolf Betas at one point. In a later book, Romancing the Werewolf, their romance takes center stage.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Despite his many quirks, Lord Akeldama is an exceptionally old vampire who is more than capable in a fight, and his drones (see Action Fashionista above) form a gossip network so effective that he's often better informed than the British government.
  • Bifauxnen: Madame Lefoux always wears masculine clothes anyway, but spends some time in the third book pretending to be a man with the help of a fake mustache. In the Finishing School series, we find out that this is not the first time she has used this trick. In her younger days she disguised herself as a boy to attend an all male institute.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In book three, a masked figure (really Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings) saves Alexia from certain death by vampire on numerous occasions.
  • Boobs of Steel: Alexia's described as being well-endowed.
  • Big Eater: Both the Lord and Lady Maccon love to eat, especially when the latter is pregnant.
  • Blessed with Suck: Pretty much sums up Biffy's reaction to becoming a werewolf. And then, in Timeless, he spontaneously develops Anubis Form, a power only held by Alpha werewolves ... after learning that Alphas have this bad habit of going bugnuts insane as they age.
  • Brave Scot: Lord Maccon, who's a Scottish werewolf, is as brave as you can get.
  • Brits Love Tea: It's a novel set in Victoriana, of course tea time is lovingly presented.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Alexia is surprised to find that she's pregnant, since her husband is supposed to be infertile. Leads to Mistaken for Cheating because of it.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Alexia is part-Italian.
  • The Butler Did It: Played with. We find out that Floote committed a murder, but the mystery wasn't presented as "Who committed the murder, the butler, the housekeeper, the parlor maid, the cook, or the wife?"
  • Camp Gay: Lord Akeldama with his dandy fashions and effeminate manner of addressing people. He has a harem of male drones (most being Camp Gay themselves) although he's in love with Biffy.
  • Compressed Adaptation: So far each volume of the "Soulless" OEL manga is a complete adaption of it's respective book in the series (Volume 1 is Soulless, volume 2 is Changeless, volume 3 is Blameless), despite being primarily image based and each volume is shorter than the book it's adapting since each one is still about the length of an average manga book.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Alexia and her father were both prenatural. Due to the nature of their abilities, two preternaturals almost physically repel each other. As such, he could not have stuck around even if he wanted to.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Several, but Professor Lyall is the most obvious.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: While this version of the Victorian era is markedly more progressive (at least in Britain), there are still a number of deliberately invoked norms that would look off to a modern audience, such as Alexia's initial "spinster" status. America meanwhile calls to mind the mentality behind the Salem Witch Trials...only with actual supernatural beings being hunted down.
  • Disappeared Dad: Alexia's father, Alessandro Tarabotti, left her mother before she was born. He wasn't the type to stick around for a child anyway, but even if he'd wanted to, he couldn't have.
  • Eagle Land: The second variety. America is an ignorant hellhole for supernatural creatures; vampires and werewolves alike are shunned, scorned, hunted and killed.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Ivy is very fond of looking at Tunstall.
  • Emergency Transformation:
    • In book 3, Biffy is turned into a werewolf after being shot, even though he never served as claviger. He could not have survived without becoming immortal.
    • In book 5, Ivy is turned into a vampire after being stabbed. Not only did this save her life, but the queen who turned her really needed a girl to bite.
  • Everyone Can See It: The attraction between Alexia and Maccon is incredibly obvious to absolutely everyone. At the end of book 1, we find that the people shipping include Queen Victoria, who says she considered interfering personally.
  • Fake Faint: At the beginning of the first book, after Alexia Tarabotti has killed a vampire who tried to attack her, she's about to leave the room when a bunch of young men come in. Forced to pretend that she's also just arrived and found the body, she promptly "faints", and stays resolutely fainted until the arrival of Lord Maccon, who wouldn't fall for it in any case.
  • First-Episode Twist: Alexia Tarabotti gets married at the end of book 1, and learns she is pregnant at the end of book 2. Given that the main plot of book 3 involves her trying to prove she could be pregnant by her allegedly sterile husband, it's nearly impossible to describe without giving away the plot twists of book 1 and 2.
  • The Gay '90s: The "Custard Protocol" series explicitly takes place in the 1890s.
  • Gorn: The manga adaptation doesn't shy away from the more graphic descriptions of violence in the novels.
  • Great Offscreen War: There are mentions of military activity in India, with a number of regiments arriving back in London.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Felicity seems quite jealous of Alexia's socially excellent marriage. She also gets jealous when her younger sister Evelyn gets engaged before her.
  • The Grovel, twice.
    • In Soulless, Lord Maccon treats Miss Tarabotti in a way that is considered a sign of high respect and romantic interest in his native culture, but in the culture they're both currently living in it's the height of rudeness.
      Professor Lyall: You have behaved, I would go so far as to say, badly. I suggest a well-crafted apology and an extended session of abject groveling.
      Lord Maccon: I am not a groveler!
      Lyall: It is possible to learn many new and interesting skills in one lifetime.
      Maccon: *after consideration* Grovel, you say?
      Lyall: Grovel, my lord.
    • In Blameless, after Lord Maccon publicly accuses Alexia of cheating on him, he prints a retraction and apology in the newspaper.
  • Happily Adopted: presumably Lord Akeldama's adoption of Prudence in Heartless will be this.
    • Though Lord and Lady Maccon still end up doing most of the parenting in Prudence's early years as it is partially a political sop to the vampires and her unique abilities often require her birth mother's touch (literally). However after that point, as Rue in her series explains, she rarely spends that much time with her birth parents, so her beloved "Dama" has done the majority of her raising and her relationship with her other parents is more strained.
  • Hidden Depths: Ivy is smarter than she lets on.
  • The Hilarity of Hats: Alexia's best friend Ivy is renowned for having the worst taste in hats in the known world, with almost every character commenting on it. In Changeless, the switch to a secret door in a milliner's is hidden under a hat so deliberately hideous that no one would ever want to buy it. Ivy makes a beeline for it.
  • Hindenburg Incendiary Principle: In Heartless, various small blimps catch fire when Madame Lefoux goes on a rampage with an octopus-like Steampunk device to take her son back from the vampires who kidnapped him.
  • Historical Domain Character: Queen Victoria herself shows up, in part to induct Alexia.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The manga doesn't shy away either from showing Alexia and company in more compromising and outright sensual lights.
  • Hybrid Monster: baby Prudence, product of a preternatural and a werewolf, is able to turn into an infant werewolf or vampire when touched by Lord Maccon or Lord Akeldama.
  • I Call It "Vera": Ethel, Alexia's pearl-handled revolver.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Werewolves and vampires, being essentially undead, are understandably infertile unless turned mortal by the Preternatural touch, but this pairing is so rare that it leads to Alexia being Mistaken for Cheating.
  • It's All About Me: Felicity. Her pettiness is Played for Laughs at first, but as the series progresses she turns out to be such a Manipulative Bitch that she borders on downright evil.
  • It's Personal: What finally convinced Professor Lyall that something really needed to be done about the previous Lord Woolsey.
  • Last-Minute Baby Naming: This, interestingly, goes twice for the same character. Prudence is given a last-minute name when she's born, but in Timeless, Alexia figures out that toddler Prudence is far smarter than one may think. Nearly every "no" that has come out of her mouth after being addressed by her name isn't just the terrible twos. She hates her name! With just enough time to change things so that it won't be much of an issue, Alexia and Conall just shrug and tell her that she can pick her own name now.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The back cover blurb for book 2 gives away the plot twist at the end of book 1, and the back cover blurb of book 3 gives away the plot twists for books 1 and 2. Tough luck for those who want to read the entire series at once.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Justified for Preternaturals, given that females cannot carry a child to term. Metanaturals like Prudence are an exception, but their powers come from both parents.
  • Mama Bear: Alexia and even Ivy have their moments, but Madame Lefoux takes first prize for trashing the Westminster hive with a giant robot to get Quesnell back.
  • Medium Awareness: "He also seemed to speak predominantly in italics."
  • Meaningful Name: Prudence makes a meaningful nickname for Akeldama by shortening his name to be a Portmanteau of "Ma" and "Da" for Mother and Father.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Changeless ends with Alexia Tarabotti getting pregnant. Her husband is a werewolf, and werewolves in this setting are sterile. Blameless opens with the result of the obvious inferences being made — despite her protests, her husband is certain she was cheating simply because he can't imagine any other explanation. No matter how obvious it is that, as a preternatural, Alexia completely nullified his werewolf traits while, ahem, "in contact" with him, which indeed includes the sterility. She does manage to prove it to him, but only after a long and arduous journey.
  • Morning Sickness: In Changeless, Alexia Tarabotti gets nauseous on a zeppelin. Naturally it's later revealed that she's pregnant.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Lord Maccon isn't shy about showing off in the manga. Being a werewolf tends to relax one's clothing standards.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Alexia in the manga is sometimes seen either disheveled, in Victorian unmentionables or outright nude.
  • Must Be Invited: When the residence of the Westminster Hive is destroyed, Lord Akeldama refuses to invite the now-homeless vampires into his home because that act would mystically "sign over" his home to them. However, he's willing to let Alexia make that mistake — largely because it forced the Westminster Hive to relocate to Woolsey Castle outside of London. It's implied that this may not be the only way; when Countess Nasdasny is told that there is a new home for the Hive, her question is "who do we have to kill".
  • Mysterious Parent: Alexia's father left before she was born. We know very little about him for a while, but we later find out that he was the product of a Templar breeding program, the goal of which was to create hunters who could track and kill the supernatural. After leaving Alexia's mother, he was killed by a werewolf Alpha who he took on to protect the love of his life.
  • The Nicknamer: Lord Akeldama. People he likes get nice ones like rose petal, lilac blossom, honeysuckle etc. People who rub him the wrong way like Madame Lefoux get squash blossom and the like.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: After two and a third books of everyone thinking her nothing but The Ditz, Professor Lyall realizes Ivy might be a little more sharp than she lets on. In book four, Ivy reveals that she's actually known about a lot more for a long time. The Finishing School Series heavily implies her to be Sophronia's niece, which might explain a few things.
  • Old Maid: Alexia's been described as a young spinster. At first.
  • Old Retainer: Floote. His loyalty to his dead master extends to running a long-distance supernatural extermination mandate in Egypt on his orders.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Biffy's full name first comes up in the fourth book Sandalio de Rabiffano
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts fade away as their bodies decay and cannot venture too far from them. They are addressed with the title of "Formerly (name)". Their bodies have to be preserved but they can't be simply immersed in formaldehyde because it interferes with their ability to exist as a ghost.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Very. In the first book, scientists theorize that the soul is a physical thing, like an organ or maybe a gas, and people when people with enough of that substance die, they may become undead of various types as appropriate. But Alexia, living among werewolves and vampires, serves as an accidental science experiment many times. Over the course of the series, it turns out that the soul is a "charge" or an energy field around a person. People with unusually strong fields either have it linger after death as an echo, like ghosts, or, if their field is mixed with that of a vampire or werewolf, they become one. As a preternatural, Alexia has no such field - but when in contact with a supernatural, it's like a negative and positive electrical charge cancelling each other out. Two preternaturals repel each other, again like electrical charges.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires usually live in hives, centered around a queen who has the power to change new vampires. They are tended by drones, humans who serve in hopes of one day being changed into vampires themselves (or occasionally simply for patronage). Only a vampire queen can turn humans and make them drones and all female vampires are queens, which is why they are harder to make. Vampire queens also can't leave their home unless they're about to be killed, and have only a few hours to find another permanent home. Queen vampires have two sets of fangs, one for eating and one for transformation, and as she gets older her transformation fangs grow and her success rate of creating another female into a queen to act as her successor goes up. Roves are male vampires that do not belong to any hive but can still have their own drones that they can have the local queen transform if their application is accepted. Both roves and queen vampires have the ability to "swarm" if threatened, which severs their link to their territory either temporarily or permanently depending on the situation.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Werewolves involuntarily change into mindless monsters at the full moon (including a number of surrounding nights which gets shorter as the werewolf gets older), and only the older ones can bear the touch of sunlight. They are as allergic to basil as vampires are to garlic. They are tended by clavigers, humans who serve in hopes of one day being changed into werewolves themselves. They are also just as dead as vampires and can only be made though a very bloody ritual preformed by a "True Alpha" werewolf. A "True Alpha" is a werewolf of either gender that has the rare ability to transform their head into a wolf's separately from the rest of their body, referred to as an "Anubis Form". True Alphas also go insane faster than normal werewolves so their lifespans tend to be shorter.
  • Out Giving Birth, Back in Two Minutes. In the head of an octomaton.
  • Painful Transformation: All werewolves have this problem, but the older ones are better at hiding it.
  • Papa Wolf: Lord Maccon, sometimes literally.
  • Partial Transformation: Anubis Form - the head-only transformation necessary to change new werewolves. Not possessed by all Alphas, but Lord Maccon has it, and, by the end of the series, so do Sighead and Biffy.
  • Parasol of Pain: Alexia's weapon of choice, though her updated model she got from Madame Lefoux is also commented on averting the typical secondary trope while still being quite useful.
  • Power Copying: Baby Prudence can steal a vampire or werewolf's powers, provided she does this at night, stays within a certain range of her victim, and the victim doesn't die.
  • Power Nullifier: the preternatural touch, which reverts vampires and werewolves to their mortal states. Their remains will also do the trick, on a much wider scale.
  • Pregnant Badass
  • Put on a Bus: Madame Lefoux's son in the third book.
  • Queen Victoria: Occasionally appears on the page.
  • The Renfield: Drones, who serve vampire hives as retainers before petitioning for the bite. The werewolf equivalents are called Clavigers.
  • Repetitive Name: Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings.
  • Running Gag:
    • The unfortunately named Captain Featherstonehaugh, whose only contribution to the stories is to be engaged to a different person every book.
    • Ivy's horrible taste in hats is often mocked.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • Alexia's status as a preternatural is officially secret. It's an odd variation on the trope, though - all supernaturals know, or find out if they ever touch her. The Queen and at least some other people in government know, because her status as preternatural qualifies her for a seat on the Shadow Council, which she holds for most of the series. Society in general doesn't know, but Alexia was a borderline spinster until she married a werewolf, so she is a scandalous figure anyway. Almost the only named characters who don't know are Alexia's immediate family and Ivy. And Ivy figures it out on her own at some point, acts as a Secret Secret-Keeper until told, and is nonchalant about it then.
    • Alexia for Professor Lyall. In Heartless, Alexia finds out that Lyall engineered the assassination plot by Lord Maccon's former pack so he would leave them and look for a new one. Lyall did this both for revenge on his own Alpha for killing Lyall's lover, and because the Alpha was crazy and dangerous in general by then. Lord Maccon is furious with Lyall when he finds out that he was manipulated into leaving his previous pack. And feels betrayed by Alexia when he finds out she kept this from him.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Alexia at one dinner party. Even her irritating mother admits that she looks nice.
  • Shipper on Deck: Professor Lyall performs this function twice.
    • He encourages Lord Maccon and Alexia's relationship, mostly because he's tired of their pussyfooting around.
    • And at the above couple's wedding, he pushes Ivy and Tunstell together.
  • Shout-Out: Pinky and the Brain gets one in Timeless.
    Alexia, my dear, are you perhaps pondering what I'm pondering?
    Alexia replied, without hesitation. "My dear Ivy, I very much doubt it."
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Used in Soulless as the next step in the Belligerent Sexual Tension.
    She jerked back. "What are you...?"
    "Only way to keep you quiet." He grumbled, taking her chin in a firmer grip and planting his mouth atop hers once more.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Alexia has a lot more steel than silk, but she does know her manners and uses them when it suits her.
  • The Soulless: Alexia Tarabotti was born without a soul, but she does not find her condition troublesome. She studies ethics "to compensate for her natural lack of morals", and uses reason instead of spirituality to be a good person. Souls in this universe are a quantifiable possession those who have large amounts, such as artists and musicians, are more likely to survive the transformation into werewolf or vampire, while those who have none at all, such as the protagonist, can actually neutralize others' powers when in physical contact with them. There's no evidence other than in-universe religious dogma that the measurable "soul" is in any way related to the religious concept of a soul - from the in-universe scientific theories, it seems to be all a matter of how the body interacts with the "aether" which exists in this universe. The aether connection, rather than soullessness as our universe would call it, seems proven when Alexia falls in the sea and loses her ability to change werewolves back to human. Aether/water are opposites, and she reverted to 'natural' human in water.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Alexia shows the wit and intelligence of this trope.
  • Steampunk: Dirigibles are simply one example.
  • Suicide by Sunlight: Played with when Alexia touches a vampire so he can watch the sun set.
  • They Walk Among Us / Broken Masquerade: The existence of vampires and werewolves are well known enough that the Her Majesty's government has a special department involving their concerns.
  • Tsundere: Alexia, a combination of type 1 and type 2.
  • Urban Fantasy: Yes, it really does count as this.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Since vampires are allergic to garlic, and werewolves to basil, pesto sauce provides a measure of protection against both. Which is why Italy invented it.
  • Werewolf Theme Naming: All over the place. Connall means 'strong wolf', Randolph Lyall has both a given name meaning 'shield wolf' and a surname derived from the old Norse úlfr meaning 'wolf', and Sidheag is an obscure Scottish name meaning— you guessed it— 'wolf'.
  • What If the Baby Is Like Me: Downplayed; while Alexia is concerned about her baby turning out preternatural, it's not the prospect of the condition itself that's bothersome, so much as the fact that preternaturals are repelled from each other. Which would be rather uncomfortable, to say the least.
  • What Measureis A Non Cute: Most people seem to regard Alexia as plain and unattractive but to modern views she sounds very appealing. This is connected to Values Dissonance.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Werewolves, vampires and supernatural activities in general are described as being harshly persecuted in America, by virtue in part of not being human. But while the British Empire is considerably more tolerant if not outright largely accepting of them, there are still some Muggle groups who seem bent of wiping them out with the latest in Steampunk science. Neither is the Vatican via the Templars all that keen with having such "abominations" walking amongst humanity.