Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless, by Gail Carriger

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 vampire — 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?

~ Back Cover Description of Soulless

I bought a copy of this book as soon as I read the description. While this book has the structure of a Victorian melodrama – in an interview Gail Carriger readily admits she thought she could only sell it as a romance, so it leans more in that direction than towards steam punk  – it has more than enough technology and character to support its premise.

I appreciate Ms Carriger’s scientific approach to vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. A protagonist who’s soulless negates the excess soul in the supernatural, and renders their immortal selves human. Interestingly, Alexia, without soul has logic, and no emotion. I wonder, if we don’t have a soul, do we lose our emotions too? Or would we simply lose our empathy? Either way, she is a fascinating heroine. She doesn’t fit in with people, with supernaturals, or even with women of England (since she’s half Italian). Italians are known for their emotion, yet she expresses less emotion than typical Victorian era women. These contradictions kept me thoroughly engaged.

I love how Ms. Carriger describes the different dynamics of vampires and werewolves. While the wolves carry a typical pack-based structure, the impulsive Alpha is balanced with a cool and level-headed Beta. I love the dynamic between Lord Maccon and his second in command Professor Lyall. When Lord Maccon wonders why Alexia aggravates him, Professor Lyall calmly points out why. On the other hand, vampires are more like insects with a queen (who controls her hive) than as dashing rogue men. This could make it seem like she prefers the wolves to the vampires, until the reader meets Lord Akeldama. Fun and flighty, his pet names for Alexia border on the ridiculous, but show just how much fun Ms. Carriger has with the reader.

While I would have preferred a bit more of the steam punk world in Soulless, I wasn’t lead astray by its premise because I’d read her interview. The book, a bit sexy at times, is a joy to read, and I found myself at once laughing out loud at everything happening, and staying up all night to continue reading. This book is fun, and while I’d like to imply certain Victorian writers would love it too, I can’t say for sure. But if you enjoy steam punk, Romance, and the supernatural (with a more scientific view), then I think you’ll like this book. I loved it.

Long live the Parasol Protectorate.

*****

Have you read any of the other versions of the books, like the Manga version of Soulless?

*****
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