All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Soulless – Gail Carriger

on November 12, 2010

Alexia Tarabotti is everything one shouldn’t be in Victorian England – she’s a mid-twenties spinster who is of half Italian extraction and therefore has undesirable tanned skin and an unfortunate nose. She’s also a very forthright and independent woman who speaks her mind and doesn’t bow to the strict rules of society or play the fainting maiden.

She’s also soulless, or a preternatural which in the terms of this universe, where vampires and werewolves exist in polite society, means that she is like a neutraliser of sorts. If she touches a vampire or werewolf, they are rendered to their human state immediately and for as long as they maintain physical contact. Her stepfather, silly rather vain mother and younger sisters are unaware of her soulless status, being more concerned with things like the latest pretty dresses and securing husbands. Alexia, who inherited her soullessness from her Italian father, is at a ball when she escapes to the library to order some tea and a few pastries due to the lack of nourishment on offer. She is rudely accosted by a vampire who tries to attack her. When he touches her, his fangs instantly retract and although she tells him that she is a preternatural it’s obvious he has no idea what that means and keeps attempting to attack her. She accidentally kills him with her trusty parasol, which brings the head of the BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry) onto the scene to attempt to figure out what has happened and why this particular vampire was breaking some well defined social rules and why he didn’t know what a preternatural was when all supernaturals are aware of her and her abilities and vampires are taught that in the Hive. It seems that the general belief is that being a vampire/werewolf comes from having too much soul and Alexia having no soul (hence soulless) is almost like a balancer.

Lord Conall Maccoon, head of the BUR and alpha werewolf of the Woolsey pack and Alexia are drawn into a mystery that  gets deeper and more complicated as they discover that new vampires are being created without the knowledge or permission of local Hives (vampires can only be created by Queens) and that lone werewolves, those not affiliated with any particular pack, are disappearing at alarming rates. There’s also a wax-faced man who is attempting to abduct Alexia for reasons unknown and Lord Conall puts her under the 24hr protection of the BUR. As Lord Maccoon and Alexia uncover a sinister plot that deals with eradicating the paranormals, they are also battling a strong attraction to one another. Lord Maccoon, although werewolf is quite an eligible bachelor and Alexia is of course, a spinster who has long been considered ‘on the shelf’.

This was a really surprising read. I’ve seen plenty of reviews around and actually, I’d always kind of held off reading this because it had seemed a bit too odd for me and a confusing mix of many genres and sub-genres. But the extra touches, the ‘oddness’ was what I came to love about it as I was reading. Paranormal is a bit of a tired genre at the moment, with all the gorgeous vampires and powerful werewolves and this series definitely deviates from the norm. Vampires are not possessed of dazzling good looks or incredible charm, nor do they appear to have a lot of the things often associated with them, such as the incredible strength, swift movement, etc. Werewolves need to be locked up on a full moon as they will attack anything as their instincts take over and even Lord Maccoon submits to the cell and shackles. I found the setting and the integration of the supernaturals into an Austen-esque society incredibly fun to read and the touch of steampunk added another element.

Alexia was a refreshing change as a female main character in a paranormal romance in that she was so confident and assertive and demanded to be kept in the loop and be told things but also didn’t run off alone and do careless and thoughtless things. She refused to be excluded by Lord Maccoon and was fearless in her pursuit of what was truly happening in their area. I enjoyed her bluntness and her frank self-appraisal. The fact that her tanned skin was so ridiculed was a hilarious poke at both the fashion of the time and the fashion now – where tans are worshiped and pale skin is considered unattractive and undesirable. I liked that Alexia wasn’t stunningly beautiful, or that she saw herself one way but everyone else saw her some other way. Her attributes (good figure) are talked up and her detractions (Italian nose & skin) are well discussed by many but they just happen to be features that Lord Maccoon finds interesting. He’s not much on social conventions and as he’s from Scotland (almost as undesirable as being half Italian) frequent mentions are made of his manners, or lack of them.

Gail Carriger has perfectly mixed snatches of real history in with her own inventions and delivered some very likable and refreshing main characters. The storyline and pacing were tight and the romance, while not the main focus of the novel, was a rather attractive bonus. This is the first of a series and  the next two books have already been released to more good reviews! I have to admit, I love a good series. With stand alone books I always find myself wondering what happens to the characters after the close of the novel. With a good series, I get to revisit much-loved characters again and again and I think this series could very well end up that way for me.


Book #91 of my 100 Book Challenge

2 responses to “Soulless – Gail Carriger

  1. […] on the look out! Some people are really anti-series but (and I actually just mentioned this in my Soulless review today) I love a good series where I can return again and again to favourite characters and […]

  2. […] Soulless, by Gail Carriger. I was getting rather tired of vampire and werewolf stories when I picked up this novel. But I found Soulless a real breath of fresh air and truly witty and enjoyable. It was my first steampunk novel and although that part of the novel is light on, it’s made me curious to track down some other types. […]

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