Title: Soulless (A Parasol Protectorate Novel)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publication Date: 2009
Alexia Tarabotti is having a difficult day. At a “dangerously close to spinster” age, Alexia finds private balls to be tedious and boring. All she wanted to do was escape the debutante games and find a quiet moment in the library with a cup of tea and treacle tart. Not only is the household staff put out by her order, but she finds that she must also share the library with a vampire. The vampire, unfortunately, is new and is not knowledgeable about Alexia’s preternatural state; he attacks her and she is forced to defend herself with her parasol and kill the vampire. As if that weren’t enough, Alpha werewolf Lord Maccon is also on the scene and her treacle tart is crushed.
Victorian London has become a very dangerous place. Although werewolves and vampires have lived in a wary state of harmony and the BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry) has worked with Queen Victoria’s blessing to maintain calm and civility, people like Alexia are still viewed with concern and caution. Alexia has no soul; when she touches a vampire or werewolf, she render them completely and normally human. However, vampires are disappearing and new ones are appearing at an alarming rate; the BUR and Buckingham Palace want to know if Alexia is involved. In order to save her reputation and also to damage it, Alexia forms an uneasy alliance with Lord Maccon and vampire hive queen Countess Nadasdy to find out the truth.
The cover of the book promised werewolves, vampires, parasols, and tea; an intriguing combination that grabbed my attention. Soulless is a fun adventure with a great deal of humor; I spent much of my time reading the book laughing and wishing for a cup of tea. The humor does a great job at parodying romantic vampire and steampunk literature in a light-hearted, non-criticizing way. I really liked this approach because it made the story very entertaining.
I am usually not a big fan of steampunk fiction; often it seems too contrived but Soulless does a great job at presenting a feasible explanation for werewolves and vampires in Victorian England and a realistic concern as to why they need to be monitored. There were steampunk elements throughout the story but I felt that they took a secondary role to the story itself.
Lord Maccon and Alexia are both multi-dimensional characters who have to deal with realistic problems and concerns in a rather supernatural environment. I was engaged in their interaction and although I could see what the outcome would be, the process of getting there was unpredictable. The series contains five books and I look forward to meeting up with these characters again and following their story.
Who might like this book:
This book is a light-hearted read; perfect for waiting in carpool or sitting at the beach. The story goes beyond the “fluff” level by creating a world that explains the how and why of the supernatural elements. I really enjoyed it. I plan to share it with my teenage daughter and I think she too will appreciate the humor and scenario that is created. A small word of warning for parents of teen readers: current teen fiction contains a lot of sex. This story is mildly suggestive and there are allusions to sex. In the grand scheme, it is mild but just wanted to mention it.