Another Helping of Custard
Created by ggrihn on 10/31/2018 2:21:17 PM

Competence: The Custard Protocol, Book 3, by Gail Carriger

Reviewed by Gregory G. H. Rihn, Steampunk Chronicle Literary Editor

Competence The third book of Gail Carriger’s Custard Protocol series is long on relationships, and rather short on adventure. The major story arc of the novel concerns the attraction/tension between Primrose Tunstell, the Spotted Custard’s Purser and Rue’s best friend, and Tasherit, who has elected to stay as part of the airship’s company after the existence of her kind was “outed” last book. There are also incremental developments in the Rue/Quensel/Rodrigo triangle, and we get more character development on the part of the apparently asexual Percy. In addition, there is some exposition regarding the history of shapeshifters, and about the history of the mysterious Floote.

For readers who have come to care for the various endearing characters, Carriger’s world, and her humorous style, that should be sufficient. If you require adventure with your custard, you may be a bit disappointed.

The action portion of the plot is rather thin. The Spotted Custard crew undertake to “float” to South America in order to rescue a rare group of supernaturals in danger of extinction. This requires them to attempt crossing the Pacific Ocean, which poses chiefly technical challenges of fuel and flight, overcome by the brilliant Percy. Percy scores again when they are endangered by unknown aetherospheric phenomena. The eventual meeting with the new supernaturals is funny, but anticlimactic.

There are still interesting loose ends to follow up: how will Rue’s relationships shake down; will Percy continue evolving from a thinking machine into a human being; will the Spotted Custard succeed in circumnavigating the globe? Stay tuned for the next book in the series, Reticence, to be out in 2019.

Recommended for fans of Carriger: if you prefer “blood and thunder” Steampunk, perhaps not so much.

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