Soulless by Gail Carriger
Before I begin to review this book I have to say I loved it! It really is an insane mix up. There’s history, romance, comedy, paranormal activity and apparently something called steam punk (I must say I was inclined to like it already with that description alone!)
Soulless brings to us a new heroine in the figure of Alexia Tarabotti and a rather delicious piece of eye candy in the form of Lord Maccon. The story is set in Victorian England but it isn’t the Victorian England we know – this is an alternate England where werewolves, vampires and ghosts are accepted and where weird and wonderful contraptions are as common as bonnets and bustles! Alexia is the eldest daughter in a rather well to do family. She is however, at the age of 26, doomed to be a spinster. Not only is Alexia half Italian (how shocking!), rather well endowed in an otherwise world of petite women, outspoken (when females with brains were not particularly valued) but she also lacks a soul. She is in fact a preternatural and the very opposite of the supernaturals – and her uncanny soullessness means that any supernatural she comes into physical contact with is immediately rendered powerless (for the duration of the contact that is). Fortunately not many people are aware of Alexia’s ability until, that is, she unwittingly kills a vampire whilst attending a social gathering. The plot then unfolds from this point with the involvement of Lord Maccon sent to investigate and the discovery that vampires and werewolves are disappearing and somebody or something is intent on abducting Alexia.
I won’t go on too much about the plot. I don’t want to spoil anything and also, to be honest, I wouldn’t say the plot is particularly deep or meaningful. So, if you’re looking for some hidden or profound message you’ll probably be disappointed.
What I particularly enjoyed about this book was the humour and the fact that it is packed full of quotable quotes! I would love to remember some of the lines but I know I’m going to forget them! Plus it made me laugh out loud (on the bus – which drew some strange looks!) I think Alexia is great. She’s outspoken, well read (yay), has a healthy appetite (which I must applaud – no lettuce leaves thank you), loves a bit of adventure and isn’t afraid to be in a tight spot (no swooning or smelling salts).
I also really enjoyed that the romantic interest was a werewolf – I do like vampire stories – but this made a nice refreshing change. And, let’s face it Lord Maccon is a bit gorgeous (woof). I will say at this point that this novel can be a little bit more explicit than some YA books – so bear that in mind!
The other great part of this book are the other characters. Alexia’s family are like something out of Pride and Prejudice – her mother IS Mrs Bennett. Her sisters live to shop and buy dresses and accessories and attend balls in search of a match. The butler is this wonderful, calm, all knowing, typical British butler who seems to appear when most needed, Miss Hiselpenny is Alexia’s unco-ordinated best friend and the fantastically foppish Lord Akeldama is her eccentric vampire friend. What more could you ask for really??
To be honest I don’t know a great deal about steam punk so I don’t know just how ‘punkish’ this novel is (although it definitely delivers a bit of steam!) so couldn’t say whether people who like that genre will be disappointed or not. But, I read this book with absolutely no pre-conceptions and thought it was a brilliant read. Witty and clever. Pride and Prejudice meets Trueblood (not sure if that’s exactly what I’m thinking – it’s just so very proper and yet at the same time so very not). And the beauty of coming to this series so late in the day is I can now proceed to read books two and three without an extended wait!
Criticisms: don’t really have any – not overly fond of the covers but it’s what’s in between them that really counts and frankly you could bind this in crinkled brown paper and it would still be a highly entertaining read.