Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Book: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: October 1, 2009
Source: Bought ebook from Amazon
Series: Parasol Protectorate #1

Summary from Goodreads: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampireâ??and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

First impressions: One of the first things I loved about this book was Alexia’s voice. She’s a stickler for etiquette, and her commentary on the manners of others, even in the most ridiculous of circumstances, is hilarious.

Lasting impressions: What a refreshing take on the paranormal and steampunk genres! I loved the mash-up of steam and clockwork technology with werewolves and vampires in Victorian society.

Conflicting impressions: The first third of the book moved pretty slowly. It wasn’t until the last third that I got truly hooked on the story.

Overall impressions: I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, and I’m happy that I finally did. Although this is a steampunk novel, it’s really more along the lines of “steampunk light.” I think if I had read this a few years ago, when it first popped up on my radar, I would have had a much different idea of what constituted steampunk. There are some elements of steampunk to the story, but it’s not nearly as integral to the story as, say, Leviathan. I definitely recommend this one for folks looking to ease in to the steampunk genre.

The paranormal elements are what make this book really shine. In Alexia’s world, vampires and werewolves are a part of society, even if they still inspire some trepidation and fear. They pose no threat to Alexia, however, as she has no soul. As a preternatural, her touch returns supernatural beings to their human state – vampires lose their fangs, werewolves shift back. Alexia’s abilities are known to select members of society, but she works to keep it away from friends and family.

Alexia is strong, stubborn, willful, and of course, proper. Yet her Italian heritage, abrasive (for the time) personality, and advancing age (I think she’s 27) have resigned her to life as a spinster. If I have one complaint about the book, it’s the incessant beating to the head we take on these three facets of Alexia’s life. On almost every page, and certainly in every scene, we are reminded that Alexia is old, Italian, and not suitable as a mate. She constantly refers to herself as a spinster. Later in the book there are hints that this has been drilled into her by her family, but through most of the story it is simply presented as fact so I never felt bad for her. Since these descriptors didn’t serve to elicit empathy, they just became annoying.

Lord Maccon is the best sort of love interest. He’s a dashing alpha male who still respects and appreciates Alexia. He can be condescending and brusque, but all in good fun as he matches wits with the equally snappish Alexia. The verbal sparring between these two is lots of fun to witness, and were some of my favorite parts of the book.

The mystery and plot were not nearly as exciting as the characters and world, so the story seemed to drag at points. Still, the ending sets up a new chapter in Alexia’s life that holds lots of promise and I’m eager to start the next book.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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