Soulless by Gail Carriger
(Parasol Protectorate #1)
Orbit Books (Oct 2009)
Paperback, 299 pages
Carolyn’s Original Review: Oct 2010
Original Rating: 3/5
Carolyn’s Take: It’s light, easy to read and I really enjoyed the time period of Victorian England and the world Carriger created. Even with the few negative points I found I would still recommend it.
Soulless by Gail Carriger is an action-packed book full of vampires, werewolves and parasols, as proclaimed by the cover, a case where the cover sums up the book perfectly. It is set in Victorian London, also incorporating elements of steampunk, with Carriger paying careful attention to the fashions worn by each character.
Alexia Tarabotti is a member of London’s elite upper class, but is also a spinster, looked down on due to her half-Italian heritage because of her darker skin tone and larger nose. She is also a preternatural, meaning she has no soul, and can neutralise the supernaturals around her, causing vampires’ fangs to retract and werewolves to transform back into their human forms.
As a result she is well acquainted with vampires and werewolves that are integrated into English society, particularly with werewolf, Lord Maccon, who is the current head of BUR – The Bureau of Unnatural Registry. He is the alpha of a werewolf pack, and current Lord of Woolsey Castle, possessing a lot of influence over the control of supernaturals. Vampires belong to ‘hives’, whilst werewolves belong to ‘packs’, with lone variants of each being referred to as ‘roves’. Roves are rare, so when they start going missing (both vampires and werewolves alike) it causes a conundrum, not least when a rove vampire attacks Alexia (and ruins the treacle tart no less!).
Alexia becomes entangled in the search for the culprit, seeking advice from her vampire friend, Lord Akeldama, who is delightfully overflowing with exuberance. She takes an active role in trying to unravel the mystery, but still has time for some afternoon tea and proper etiquette along the way!
I really liked Alexia Tarabotti as a main character, particularly in her dealings with her family, as she is not afraid to stand up to them. They have tried to beat her down her whole life about her Italian ancestry, telling her she will never be married, but she is still defiant to the end. As much as she loves etiquette, she is still not afraid to let go of all decorum, particularly in the presence of Lord Maccon.
Lord Maccon is as masculine a love interest as they come, incredibly powerful and holding a high status in society. In the beginning he irks Alexia, causing strong arguments between them, but of course this predictably changes throughout the novel, with him becoming a suitor for Alexia. The only thing that I didn’t like about him was that he was a little too domineering over her, a little bit too protective. His status as a werewolf was interesting, as it meant that Alexia could hold off his transformation at full moon, with Carriger describing the process in a wealth of vivid detail.
Lord Maccon felt his bones completely breaking and reforming, his skin stretching and shrinking, his tendons realigning, his hair shifting downward and becoming fur. His sense of smell sharpened. He caught a whiff of some familiar scent riding an air current down from the castle above.
The novel’s resolution is also accompanied by graphic violent descriptions of events, with the ending quite unexpected. I particularly liked the author’s old style of writing, trying to capture that of Victorian writers. The only thing that I didn’t like was in the opening chapter, as Alexia is constantly referred to using her whole name, or ‘Miss Tarabotti’, which is quite a mouthful to constantly read. After the initial chapter this gets much better, so hopefully this wouldn’t stop anyone from continuing!
Overall this was a really refreshing read, particularly with the werewolf love interest as opposed to a vampire, and I loved the attention to Victorian detailing, such as costumes and food. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, and am excited to follow the story of Alexia.
I really enjoyed Soulless, especially as I am a fan of the Victorian setting and fashions detailed so well by Carriger. The heroine is strong and funny, whilst the hero is masculine and endearing, and the plot resolution was very neatly tied whilst leaving endless possibilities for the sequel.
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