cover image Competence


Gail Carriger. Orbit, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-43388-4

In this charming, laugh-out-loud steampunk escapade, set in an 1895 populated by a variety of supernatural creatures, the crew of the Spotted Custard return for a third adventure (after Imprudence). The focus shifts to the British airship’s purser, Miss Primrose Tunstall, a straitlaced, proper young woman who finds her perceptions of self and propriety increasingly challenged by Tasherit, an immortal werelioness who persistently, and often nakedly, flirts with her. But romance, however unconventional, takes a backseat to adventure. Primrose and Tasherit must engineer a helium heist to save their ship, and then the Custard is dispatched to Peru to investigate rumors of a new breed of vampires. While there’s a healthy dose of action in the form of airship pirates and other hazards of the open sky, the emphasis is on the character-driven, romantic comedy of manners at its heart. Carriger excels at wry humor and clever phrasing, and her ensemble cast is thoroughly charming and satisfyingly diverse. There’s a genuine sense of whimsy and fun running throughout this story, making it a treat for fans of the series. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary. (July)