The Next Generation in Parasols: A Review of The Custard Protocol

When Prudence first came out I somehow missed that the series, The Custard Protocol, is a sequel to The Parasol Protectorate. I don’t know how. I must not have been paying very close attention. Or maybe it’s because I don’t like the covers quite as much as the first series. But I’m a completionist and as soon as I realized Prudence was about Alexia’s daughter, I decided to catch up. I’m glad I did. This may sound like sacrilege, but there are some ways that I like The Custard Protocol better than The Parasol Protectorate. There are two books in the new series so far, Prudence, and Imprudence, and I will try to talk about them with only some minor spoilers.

Rue, as the daughter of a werewolf and a soulless, is something called a metanatural, a skin-stealer. She can take on the immortality and abilities of any supernatural she touches, making her even more feared than her mother, the preternatural. Although she bears it well, having been raised by both a rove vampire and a werewolf pack. And even though everyone warns her not to rely too heavily on her metanatural abilities, Rue does pretty well getting into trouble (and out of it) on her own. In fact, just like The Parasol Protectorate, Rue’s abilities seem secondary to the plot most of the time. It’s just another aspect of who she is, like the fact that she has a quick sense of humor, or that she’s as impulsive as her mother ever was.

Although like a lot of children given their first taste of adventure away from their parents, Rue has a certain blindness to the qualities she has inherited from Alexia and Conall. Nor is she aware of her parents’ relative level of badassness. I found that just a little disappointing. I’m not saying it’s not realistic. What twenty-year-old actually thinks their parents are cool? But as a reader who loved Alexia and Conall first, I found Rue’s lack of respect and understanding toward the older generation jarring. Part of that might be because I had a pretty good relationship with my mom, and I hope I’ll have a pretty good one with my daughter. So the fact that Alexa and Rue were always at odds made me sad. Especially after they seemed to get along so well in Timeless.

I suppose it is always a shock to the system when characters grow and change between books as well as in them. Somehow we expect to find them exactly where we left them. I guess even metanaturals have to grow up sometime.

Still the rest of the relationships aboard the Spotted Custard more than made up for that disappointment. If you’ve read The Parasol Protectorate, you’ll recognize Madame Lefoux’s son, Quesnel, along with Ivy’s twins, Percy and Primrose. Though keep in mind they’ve grown up since Timeless and are capable of so much more hilarity than simply spitting up on people. Plus they pick up a few new friends along the way. In fact I think I might love these characters just a smidge more than Alexia and her crew. Hard to imagine, I know. I’ll admit I did not think I would like Ivy Tunstell’s children nearly as much as I did. Primrose is almost as competent as Alexia, and I have a massive fondness for distracted academics like Percy, whose charm and good looks are a result of accident rather than choice.

While Carriger has always been hilarious, somehow she still managed to outdo herself in Prudence. The dialogue and relationships between Prim and Rue, Quesnel and Rue, and Percy and, well, anyone, were sweet and well crafted and punchy as any punchline.

With that being said. I did find the second book, Imprudence, much harder to like. The writing and the plot just weren’t as tight, as if Carriger’s editor decided this book wasn’t worth the effort. Over and over someone would say something pretty significant, but Rue would spend a paragraph or two ruminating before finally responding. Or there were places where it felt like Carriger forgot what she’d just written in the paragraph before. I mean, upon arriving home one of the characters mentions how she hasn’t changed at all. Then three lines of dialogue later the same character says she’s changed too much. Um…so which is it? Just a minor example of a systemic problem. The plot too seemed aimless and character actions just didn’t make sense sometimes. Maybe I just don’t like books where the main goal is to run away from the nameless enemy who is attacking us. We don’t know who it is or why they want us dead, they just do. I personally need more than that.

Also while I really loved the interplay and the flirting between Rue and Quesnel in the first book, their relationship really lost its charm for me in the second. All of the subtlety I’d loved about the first one was thrown out the window. Things that had been apparent in subtext and innuendo were suddenly the topic of conversation at the dinner table. This was true for everyone, not just Rue and Quesnel, but those two were the worst about it. As if the change in their relationship resulted in a change in their characters and personalities as well. Not to mention I thought they were both being rather dense about the whole he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not thing. It’s never a good thing to let your main character seem dense.

However, Imprudence left Rue with a better understanding of herself, and the world (including Quesnel and her parents) so I hope the flaws of the second book were just a blip in the whole series. Which I only now realized is not finished, making this review sort of incomplete. I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment, just so I can spend more time with these characters that I enjoy so much despite the blips. And Carriger has earned enough credit with me to overlook some faults. Maybe next time we can find Percy someone to love.

3 Comments

  • Shara White December 27, 2017 at 9:46 am

    I’ve only read the first book, which I adored, but I haven’t read the second yet, despite owning it. I do look forward to it though, and to finishing the Finishing School series!

    I had always assumed that Rue’s strained relationship with her parents had to do with the fact she was more raised by the vampires than her actual parents (due to whatever agreement had been worked out in Parasol Protectorate, I’m blanking right now), and as a result, she harbored a certain resentment towards them?

    Reply
    • Kendra Merritt December 27, 2017 at 10:59 pm

      I can see that, I just felt like they had a much better relationship in Timeless (granted Rue was two at the time) and the disparity made me sad.

      Reply
      • Shara White December 28, 2017 at 7:26 pm

        Sadly, I barely remember anything about Timeless in that regard. But yes, she WAS two at the time, and Rue pulling away from her parents makes sense as she’s a teenager in these books. Often, teens have to rediscover their parents as someone OTHER than authority figures, so hopefully, Carriger will be exploring that in future books.

        Reply

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