Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: Steampunk/Urban Fantasy
Series: The Parasol Protectorate (Book 1)
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Format: Paperback, 373 Pages
ISBN-10: 0316056634 (Orbit)
ISBN-13: 978-0316056632 (Orbit)
Reviewed by: Kristie
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?
SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.
Quick & Dirty: A steampunk that is hilarious, quirky and dangerous. Must enjoy etiquette speak and British mannerisms to enjoy this creative world.
Opening Sentence: Miss Alexia Tarabotti was not enjoying her evening.
Miss Alexia Tarabotti has grown up as an outcast in 1800’s British society. Her father was Italian which leaves her with tanned skin and a big nose, and at twenty-six years old has left her as an old maid. Alexia has no problem with her station in life; in fact, she is pretty resigned to the fact that she will never marry. Thankfully, her mom and stepdad are rich so she can afford her spinsterhood even though she still lives at home with her family which includes two stepsisters. Besides her exotic looks, Alexia also inherited something else from her father, a preternatural power that is called Soulless.
Alexia’s Soulless powers have an interesting impact on supernatural creatures. Her touch negates their powers and they become human again as long as she touches them skin to skin. Her power is rare and it has a long and troubled history with being associated to vampire hunters. Many of the supernatural would like to see her dead except for the fact that she has never used her powers to kill, until now. Alexia is attacked by a very hungry and very ignorant vampire. He doesn’t know what she is and when she accidentally kills him with her “hair stake” and parasol, she uncovers a strange plot where new vampires are appearing and old vampires are disappearing.
Alexia tries to team up with Lord Maccon, an aggravating werewolf and investigator for the Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR), to uncover why she was forced into killing a vampire. As an unmarried female, Alexia can’t actually work for BUR but she makes sure she inserts herself into their investigation. Alexia begins to understand the terrible feelings she has towards Lord Maccon while trying to avoid being attacked by a crazy monster that does not respond to her touch. How much can one prim and proper lady put up with?
Poor Alexia has grown up feeling unworthy, in a society that is all about status, wealth and looks. Wealth will give her a good life but her looks will never find her betrothed to a suitable husband. Alexia is also outgoing and loves to speak her mind which is also not another good sign in a woman. She wants to work for BUR but knows it isn’t proper for her to do so but she is very inquisitive by nature. On the other hand, Lord Maccon doesn’t know what to make of Alexia. She drives him crazy, poking her nose into his business all the time. He loves how strong she is and how she stands up for herself but he also sees the vulnerability in her.
I was immediately drawn into this steampunk world. The technology was not overwhelming but enough to get a feel for this world. The preternatural/supernatural angle was something that I hadn’t seen before and I like how it was incorporated. The werewolves and vampires have a hierarchy system to keep themselves in line. The supernatural is known across the world but England is one of the few countries where they are accepted. The first chapter where Alexia dispatches the vampire hooked me into the peculiar style that flowed with the rest of the novel.
The writing style is the only thing that I can think of that may turn people away. I found it funny and quirky and full of British mannerisms and I loved it, but the third person that just leaps from one person’s thoughts to another paragraph to paragraph may make it a little confusing as to who thought’s you are reading. The vampire Lord Akeldama was absolutely over the top, he is my favorite character in this series so far.
Overall, Soulless is a great urban fantasy/steampunk that was a fun and quick read, even with the scary parts where it doesn’t look good for anyone’s lives. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Alexia and the others in this series.
Miss Tarabotti could make out his form more clearly now, her eyes having adjusted fully to the gloom. Yet all she could process mentally was a great shaggy mass of killing frenzy plunging toward her throat. She wanted desperately to run, but there was nowhere for her to go.
Keeping her wits about her, Alexia stepped toward the charging monster and a little to one side. In the same movement, she tilted sideways as much as her corset would allow and crashed against the beast’s ribs, knocking him out of his leap. He was a big wolf, but Alexia Tarrabotti was no lightweight either, and she managed to broadside him just enough to throw him off kilter. They fell to the ground together in a coil of skirts and bustle wires and fur and fangs.
Alexia twined her arms, her legs—as much as her underpinnings would allow—and anything else she could manage about the wolf’s huge furry body and held on as tightly as humanly possible.
With a profound sense of relief, she felt his fur disappear and his bones re-form under her fingers. The sound of muscle, sinew, and cartilage breaking was truly gruesome, like a cow being butchered, but the feel of it was even worse. The sensation of fur disappearing at her touch, crawling away from any point of contact with her body, and the bones, liquidlike, changing their very nature under his flesh, was one that would haunt her for months. But, eventually, she held only warm human skin and solid lean muscles.
Miss Tarabotti took a long, deep, shaky breath and from the smell alone had no doubt at all whom it was she held. For the scent was all open grassy fields and night air. Involuntarily, her hands moved against his skin in relief. Then, of course, she realized something else.
“Why, Lord Maccon, you are stark naked!” Alexia said. She was appalled beyond all reason by this last in the long string of indignities she had had to suffer in the space of one torturous evening.
The Parasol Protectorate Series:
FTC Advisory: I purchased my own copy of Soulless. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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