By Nichole Harwood
Saying goodbye to a favorite book series is not so different from saying farewell to a dear friend. You know there is a chance you will see each other again but you are also faced with the reality that the relationship you held dear for many years is now moving on. Gail Carriger’s Reticence, the fourth book in the Custard Protocol series and seemingly final chapter in the beautiful world that began with Soulless, was released August 6th, closing a final chapter on a world that was just as remarkably witty as it was creative.
The intelligent and slightly antisocial Percival Tunstell (“Percy” to his friends) takes the reins in the final book, giving us an interesting view of how the world Carriger built looks to one of her less sociable main characters. Unlike his charming sister Primrose and her overly charismatic best friend Prudence (a favorite of mine in the series) Percy is simply not the adventure type. His character hearkens to one that is born into extraordinary circumstances but would rather embrace the ordinary in life.
While we are told by other main characters that Percy truly belongs among the cast on the Spotted Custard we have never really seen him embrace his place among them. This book finally allows us to see Percy embrace his place and prove that he is a truly valuable member of the Spotted Custard.
The book begins with Dr. Arsenic Ruthven, a doctor who while brilliant has to often fight for her place among her colleagues due to her gender. The lady doctor strikes gold when she is interviewed by the crew of the Spotted Custard who immediately take a liking to her and quickly hire her as the doctor of their vessel. From the very beginning of the book, there is an attraction between Arsenic and our main character Percy, and the book does a very elegant job of portraying the relationship from both points of view. But while a romance exists in this book it would be a mistake to file the final book of this series under romance. Quite early on we are thrown into a collection of interesting and strange situations ranging from a wedding where the bride’s grandmother is promptly thrown into a fountain (don’t worry she deserved it) to a request for the crew to journey to Japan. Along the way, Carriger introduces a range of characters from past series to new faces that only seem to expand the world she built. When we actually arrive in Japan and are given the conflict of saving a dying fox shifter or not, we as readers are already well invested in the ending of the series.
As the writing shifts from Percy to Arsenic, readers are given two very different perspectives that I believe shape this book as not just a thrilling conclusion to a beloved series, but a proper stand-alone read on it’s own. Percy serves as the eyes of seasoned readers, who know all the characters introduced, while Arsenic serves as the eyes of new readers who are being introduced to these characters for the first time.
This book seems to serve two purposes: the first is wrapping up the entirety of the series by allowing us to say goodbye to a cast we have come to love, and the second is solidifying one of the younger cast member’s place in the series. Showing readers both old and new that there is so much more still left to explore in the world Carriger created.
The parts of the book that stood out to me were the ones that truly dived into Percy’s character. What I really love about his character is how similar he and his mother Ivy are from a reader’s perspective. I don’t mean personality-wise, as the two could not be farther apart in attitude or character, but rather how easily overlooked they are. Ivy is introduced in the first book as the main character Alexia Tarabotti’s best friend, and Percy is the brother of this series main character Prudence’s best friend. Both Ivy and Percy are often wildly underestimated by their peers and yet both end up being integral to the plotlines of their respective series.
There are two endings to this book: the first is Percy’s ending which gives readers hope as his last lines are perhaps one of my favorite in the book.
“Percy realized that perhaps he hadn’t estimated properly and that they may not quite make it to Hong Kong, but he had no doubt at all, that they would make it somewhere.
They would make it happen.
They would make all of it happen, together.
And it would be glorious.” (Percy, Reticence the fourth book in the Custard Protocol Series)
The second ending is a farewell from one character that has been a constant throughout the series, Lord Akeldama. While his letter is beautiful I will admit that one line sticks out to me the most and I think it is the best line to end this review on as it encapsulates not just Carriger’s characters but also a large chunk of humanity.
“Never discount humans. They try so very hard. Sometimes they become something wonderful.” (Lord Akeldama, Reticence the fourth book in the Custard Protocol Series)
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