Saturday, April 6, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Soulless by Gail Carriger

We spent spring break in the Bahamas! After starting off with The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave on the plane, I wanted something lighter to take to the beach. Soulless by Gail Carriger was on my TBR pile list, so that went into my suitcase.

I bought this book nearly three years ago, curious to explore the genre-bending steampunk, comedy-of-manners, Victorian romance. Why has it languished on my shelf? It has an original premise, a delightful protagonist, and an entertaining plot. Alexia Tarabotti is a twenty-five-ish, half-Italian bluestocking. Her father is dead and her remarried, flighty mother and two attractive younger sisters despair of her, knowing that no man will ever be interested, since she does not fit conventional ideas of female beauty. Alexia has resigned herself to spinsterhood, but is independent enough not to let that bother her. The set-up so far is typical romance fare–the difference is that in this Victorian England, vampires, werewolves and ghosts live in harmony with mortals. In fact, some of the cream of society are supernatural beings. Alexia is not one of these; she is the opposite. She is preternatural. She has no soul.

Being soulless means that vampires and werewolves have no power over Alexia. In less enlightened times, preternaturals hunted supernaturals, but today, it is the preternaturals who are the oddity and who keep their identity somewhat secret. Alexia is registered with the governmental agency that keeps track of these things, but polite society only knows her as an unmarriageable female and that’s bad enough.

Bad enough–and then, Alexia accidentally kills a vampire at a ball. The vampire does not belong to any of the known London hives. Lord Conall Maccon, head of the London BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry) and a werewolf, arrives to investigate. Alexia and Lord Maccon have had embarrassing run-ins before, but nothing of quite this magnitude. He is extraordinarily masculine and handsome and although he finds her quite the troublemaker, he isn’t as put off by her looks and her advanced age as most men of her acquaintance. He’s disturbed by the unknown and now-dead vampire and what it all might mean. But he most definitely doesn't want Alexia to get mixed up in it any more than she is. Of course, she does.

Before long, the two learn of more vampire appearances and disappearances and threats against lone werewolves as well. A mystery must be solved as romance blooms in unlikely circumstances. The characters are amusing and the whole thing is a lot of fun. The world that Carriger creates is a lively and fascinating one and so fully imagined that I could whole-heartedly immerse myself in it. If there are going to be vampires and werewolves and such, let them be just like this!

The TBR pile-challenge is hosted by RoofBeamReader.