Sunday, August 30, 2009

Book Review: Soulless

Title: Soulless
Series: Parasol Protectorate Book 1
Author(s): Gail Carriger
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Steampunk, Romance, Paranormal, Humor
Publisher/Year: Orbit Books/2009
-Webpage: Hail the Victorious Parasol
-Blog: Gail Carriger @ LJ

Synopsis: 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.

Review: When trying to figure out how to categorize Soulless all I could really think of was 'Historical Paranormal Romantic Spoof'...because honestly everything and everyone, in the beginning of the book, was so over the top for their stereotype. Alexia was so in your face blue-stocking and Lord Maccon was so abrasive and beastly that you couldn't ever think they were anything else. The characters mellow however (or their personalities grew on me to an alarming degree that I should be ashamed to admit to enjoying immensely) and the story itself is twisty and fun.

Aside from being a pain in everyone's butt, Alexia is a humorous (in a dry, dark way) and intriguing character. She really doesn't care one wit about anything--whether that's her natural disposition or learned behavior to save herself its not clear--in a defined way. She cares, but doesn't invest herself is perhaps the better word. She prefers to have delicious food and prefers to have intellectual conversation, but if neither is present she finds a way to amuse herself (usually ending up in trouble).

Lord Maccon--Conall--is a brute of a man and he took the better part of the book for me to get used to. I didn't actively dislike him, but he grated on my nerves with his overbearing personality. I much preferred Lord Akeldama with his flouncy exuberant mannerisms and 'Oh darling you did not!!!' ways of speech. Professor Lyall, Conall's Beta (second in command of the pack and Conall's balance) was all right, but a little too milque toast for my liking. He did have a fine moment of blistering anger/irritation though.

The romance between Conall and Alexia was the most amusing part of the whole book. Admittedly if they had just snogged when they first met they'd both have gotten to the point quick enough but as it stood between them neither could have seen what was right in front of them if they hadn't some well meaning and overly interefering friends. I think though there was inherent disadvantages for them both--Conall couldn't seem to remember how to court a human (or at least not-Pack) female and Alexia took everything at face value (more or less).

I confess to being totally confused by the whole 'Soulless' thing, or indeed the entire idea of the quantity of soul being what determined if someone becomes a supernatural or not. At one point its remarked that maybe too literal is the right term, but I can't be certain if that was meant as a sly joke on the author's part or not. I kind of understood it somewhere in the last third of the book, but there was so many theories, facts and discussions going on about the subject I might have gotten mixed up.

I was very interested in the mention of America. This is alternative history paranormal shennighans going on and there is some talk of it, but with the source being highly suspect (as we later find out) I'm not sure how much of what he said about America's view on Supernaturals is true. And then also Alexia and her companions are so thoroughly British that you can't count on their opinions of their lost 'cousins' very much.

Book 2, so far titled Changeless, has a short excerpt in the back of Soulless and according to Carriger's website is scheduled for an April 2010 release. I am looking forward to it with great interest and can only hope one of Alexia's parasols is included!