Saturday 21 September 2013

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger - Book Review


From the Blurb:

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?

The Review:

Soulless is an utterly wonderful read. Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster with attitude. While she claims to be a "proper English young lady", and persistently comments on the manners of others (such as poorly behaved vampires, and ruggedly handsome, if somewhat naughty werewolves), she has a habit of forgetting a woman's place in society. Far from the quiet spinster she ought to be, Alexia is busy killing vampires and then must investigate the matter herself, if she wants to prove herself innocent of other vampire disappearances.

Of course, this is rather fortuitous, since the investigator sent by Queen Victoria is the delicious Lord Maccon, a werewolf who doesn't quite know what to make of Miss Tarabotti with her silver tipped parasol and ability to make him turn human with a single touch. An ability to lift the werewolf curse (and other supernatural abilities) is something Alexia has always been able to do, and while it becomes both a practical skill as well as a danger to her, it also provides Alexia and Lord Maccon some interesting things to consider when they do.. well.. touch.

This was one of my first steampunk reads and I absolutely loved it. Alexia is a delight and the story held me fast. It is the perfect combination of action, mystery and romance, with a strong, powerful and relatable heroine who is guaranteed to make you laugh, and a hero who is sure to make you weak at the knees. It isn't the steamiest romance, Alexia is a proper English lady, after all, but this provides for the perfect amount of delayed gratification and romantic seduction as the story progresses.

If you've never tried steampunk, this is a great way to dip your toe into the genre, with a romance that will definitely hold you tight.

I read the Audiobook, so what about the Narrator?

Emily Gray was the ideal narrator for Soulless. She captures Alexia's sarcasm, wit, and excessively British mannerisms to perfection. There was nothing to criticise in this narration, and everything to love. I will definitely look for more titles read by Emily Gray, as well as those written by Gail Carriger.

What about the rest of the series?

Since reading Soulless I have also read the second and third in the series, Changeless and Blameless, respectively. [Spoiler alert] Changeless is set after Alexia and Lord Maccon marry. Now Lady Woolsey, Alexia must solve a mystery in the depths of Scotland, after her husband disappears. This story was lots of fun, though with less romance than the first, I still enjoyed it greatly. The third in the series, Blameless, however, was less exciting. I was just annoyed by our hero, and my sympathy for our heroine was sad rather than enjoyable. I recommend reading the first, and maybe the second of this series, but leave it there. I think this might be one of those cases where a series ought to have been a standalone novel. Soulless was perhaps too perfect by itself, and creating a series around it was not a success. Admittedly, I'm sure others will continue to enjoy the rest of the series, but I found it lost its romance appeal and, for me, its appeal in general.

Soulless was published in 2009 by Orbit and is available from Audible, Book Depository and Amazon.