Book Review: Soulless, by Gail Carriger

Orbit
357 pp.

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)
Available on Amazon.

Soulless is the first book of The Parasol Protectorate and it takes place in a steam-punkish Victorian England with vampires and werewolves (and the occasional evil cabal of mad scientists). Our Heroine is one Alexia Tarabotti, a young woman with a great deal of intelligence and an equal lack of soul. She is a preternatural and this lack of soul enables her to nullify the characteristics or abilities of vampires, ghosts and werewolves. This is an ability known only to a very few people (not even her family or friends know) and it places her in danger when she accidentally kills a vampire at a dinner party.

The individual investigating her is Earl Conall Maccon, a werewolf and an occasional acquaintance. (Well, kind of and acquaintance–Alexia and Maccon met shortly after an incident involving a hedgehog.) They do not get along very well, though this turns out to be due to mutual misunderstandings and some severe miscommunications of the Austen romantic variety. It turns out that Alexia is a suspect in the disappearances of several vampires due to her being “preternatural,” and the suspicion increases a great deal after the party.It is discovered that the vampire Alexia accidentally killed was not registered either as the member of a hive or as a “rove” (a solitary vampire). The vampire also hadn’t realized that Alexia was a preternatural. (Both vampire and werewolf communities are aware of the existence of preternaturals. Neither community would allow any new member of the community to be ignorant of preternaturals since preternaturals in the past often became werewolf and vampire hunters.) The vampire is also lacking in anything remotely resembling manners, since he had attacked her in the first place. (Which is Just Not Done; the vampire community only takes blood from willing donors and have very strict rules concerning Appropriate Behavior.)It turns out that this vampire is one of several such vamps that have been appearing recently. There are also disappearances among both the vampire and werewolf population. Alexia’s attempts at trying to find out what’s going on leads to her being attacked on several occasions by an unknown party. Lord Maccon decides to have her home watched, something that is not noticed by her family. They do however notice that Lord Maccon is visiting a great deal and are wondering if perhaps Alexia is being courted. (They are a little amazed by it, as Alexia is a spinster in her late twenties.) Alexia of course is not aware that Lord Maccon is attracted to her, and for most of the story Lord Maccon himself is not aware that he is attracted to her.

The writing style is very “Austenish” with lots of snappy repartee, irony and sarcasm. The romance was interesting and funny, though slightly predictable. (Okay, truthfully, most romances are slightly predictable, but still.) I liked the characters and worldbuilding behind this novel. I felt the writer managed to do some interesting things with the “werewolves/vampires/other supernatural creatures as a part of society instead of hid from it” trope. I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.

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Filed under alternate history, fantasy, Gail Carriger, manner punk, Review: Book, steam punk

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