cover image Reticence


Gail Carriger. Orbit, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-43391-4

This charming conclusion to the Custard Protocol steampunk series (following 2018’s Competence) sees the unorthodox crew of the good airship Spotted Custard taking on a new ship’s doctor before setting forth for Japan to investigate rumors of unknown shapeshifters. Dr. Arsenic Ruthven is just what they need: forthright, dedicated, and comfortable with “explosions and cats.” She’s also an intellectual match for Percival Tunstell, the ship’s navigator and overeducated stick-in-the-mud; much to everyone’s surprise (and secret relief), Arsenic and Percy develop a bond over their mutual love of scholarship, though neither is ready to admit the growing attraction. Meanwhile, Capt. Prudence Akeldama is pregnant and no one knows whether her child will be mortal. Things take a turn for the complicated and diplomatically awkward when they dock at the flying city of Edo and stumble across its long-held secrets. Carriger’s prose is playful and droll, with frequent laugh-worthy moments, tongue-in-cheek humor, and sparkling repartee. While the characters never truly feel in danger, there’s still an underlying weight to their emotional connections and the unusual family they’ve created. A familiarity with previous installments is recommended, but newcomers can still enjoy Percy and Arsenic’s blossoming romance amid steampunk hijinks. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary. (Aug.)