Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Posted March 28, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Genres: Steampunk
Published by Orbit on October 1, 2009
Pages: 388
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Curtsies & Conspiracies, Etiquette and Espionage, Waistcoats & Weaponry, Manners & Mutiny, Changeless, Blameless, Prudence, Imprudence, Competence, Reticence, Changeless, Blameless , Heartless , Timeless

First in the Parasol Protectorate steampunk series and revolving around Alexia Tarabotti, a preternatural; there is a prequel series you may want to read, the Finishing School series. The couple focus is on Alexia and Lord Conall Maccon, a werewolf, in 1873.

In 2013, Soulless won the Prix Julia Verlanger, and in 2010, it won the ALA Alex Award.

My Take

Gail Carriger only gets better when you re-read her novels. She has a biting wit that snarks away at Victorian values and beautifully blends that time period with her steampunk world of vampires and werewolves.

Her main protagonists move seamlessly from a seeming outright dislike of each other into love along a most amusing path. While the progression of Alexia and Conall’s romance is an underlying theme, the overt conflict is missing supernaturals with Alexia’s violent confrontation in the library as the kickstart.

“Alexia figured, delightedly, that this meant he did, in fact, tend to traipse around his private apartments in the altogether. Marriage was becoming more and more of an attractive prospect.”

I adore Alexia’s sang-froid and confident assertiveness. She’s a brilliant woman with her own sense of very upright morals who holds herself to them through rigid courtesy. And I suspect she’s the “anonymous” writer in those society papers. I also adore Lord Akeldama. He’s so amazingly frivolous appearing and has the most incredible repertoire of endearments.

I’m assuming that Carriger “drew” Siemons and his actions in order to point up the ridiculousness of the man.

I do love that ending. And so does Alexia with all the opportunities Queen Victoria’s appointment will allow her. Well, the Queen does want someone who has kept current with scientific inquiry.

The Story

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?

The Characters

The brilliant Miss Alexia Tarabotti is of Italian extraction and was born without a soul, a state of existence that has a disastrous (to them) effect on vampires, ghosts, and werewolves. Alessandro Tarabotti is her now-deceased father, himself a preternatural — with a very bad reputation. The frivolous, disapproving, and unsuspecting Mrs. Loontwill is her mother who remarried to the easygoing Squire Herbert Loontwill. Evylin and Felicity are her idiotic, mean, nasty, backstabbing stepsisters. Floote is the Loontwill butler and had been Mr. Tarabotti’s valet for years.

“‘Well, a parcel of scientists coming and going … will certainly lower the tenor of that neighborhood.’

‘How ghastly for [the Duchess of Snodgrove],’ said Alexia, driven beyond endurance into comment. ‘People actually thinking, with their brains, and right next door.'”

Miss Ivy Hisselpenny is Alexia’s only human friend and notorious for her extremely bad taste and even worse taste in hats. Unfortunately, her family is too middle class for Society.

The Woolsey Pack is…
…a werewolf pack of eleven based outside London. Lord Conall Maccon has been its Alpha (with an Anubis Form) and the fourth Earl of Woolsey for the past twenty years. (We first heard of him in Curtsies & Conspiracies, 2, in the Finishing School series.) The very urbane Professor Randolph Lyall is his Beta, his second-in-command. Rumpet is the head butler. Tunstell, an actor, is Maccon’s personal valet and captain of the household clavigers.

The Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR) is…
…a division of Her Majesty’s Civil Service and charged with enforcement of supernatural laws. The overly blunt Lord Maccon heads up BUR and is its chief sundowner. Prof. Lyall is the assistant administrator of supernatural relations. Employees include werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and mortals. George Greemes is in charge of vampire registration in Canterbury. Haverbink is another agent.

The Shadow Parliament is…
…composed of three beings and advise Queen Victoria. The vampire potentate who serves as a vampire prime minister has been the royal advisor since Queen Elizabeth I. The dewan is the werewolf advisor and is concerned with military matters. The muhjah is a preternatural meant to break any stalemates between the potentate and the dewan and is the only mobile councilor. Lord Maccon is one of its agents.

Lord Akeldama…
…is a rove and notorious for his flashy style of dress. He claims he split from his hive when he was told what to wear. He’s also — secretly — respected for the abundance of information his excitable drones acquire. His drones are well-dressed, well-mannered, and very surprising. They include Biffy (Akeldama’s favorite); Tizzy, a.k.a., Viscount Trizdale is the Duke of Trizdale’s heir; and, Eustace.

The Westminster hive is…
…located in London with Countess Nadasdy as its queen. Miss Mabel Dair is an actress and a drone for the countess. Angelique is the countess’ French maid. Lord Ambrose, Nadasdy’s praetoriana; the Duke of Hematol; and, Dr. Caedes, an engineer, are part of her hive.

The Hypocras Club is…
…an offshoot of The Order of the Brass Octopus and has opened next door to the Snodgroves and caters to intellectuals, philosophers, and scientists. Mr. Siemons is its head with an interest in ensuring humanity’s agenda. Mr. MacDougall is an American scientist fascinated by measuring the soul. The wax-faced VIXI is an automaton. Dr. Neebs and Cecil may be the same scientist.

The Duke of Snodgrove is amazingly tightfisted. It was at Lord and Lady Blingchester‘s dinner party that Miss Wibbley appeared.

Glassicals are Prof. Lyall’s monocular cross-magnification lenses with spectra-modifer attachment. Alexia believes they’re the “progeny of an illicit union between a pair of binoculars and some opera glasses.

Soul-sucker is a pejorative term for a soulless preternatural. Drones are vampire companions, servants, caretakers, who serve as food and hope to be turned. Vampires prefer artists. A hive is a pack of vampires. A rove is a vampire without a hive; a loner is the werewolf equivalent as he is without a pack. Clavigers are werewolf staff who hope to be changed. Werewolves have a preference for flashier creative people such as thespians, opera singers, and ballet dancers. The Anubis Form requires a strong werewolf who can master changing only a part of his body. A sundowner is a sanctioned killer for queen and country.

Templars are a religious organization dedicated to eliminating supernaturals.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a softened gray-and-white background of a street scene with an old-fashioned, ornate street lamp and Big Ben. Alexia is front and center with her weaponized parasol in black while she stands in a reverse-S posture and wearing a satiny red-violet ensemble and a black top hat that appears to be trimmed with a glassical. The author’s name, title, and series info is in a white font and each is backed by a solid-colored rectangle of purple, fuchsia, and pink.

The title is our introduction to Alexia, a rare Soulless preternatural.

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4 responses to “Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

  1. Vampires and steampunk. Hmm.. Okay, I’d like to read this one.

    Sorry I’ve missed a few posts. My head and neck are killing me from this darn flu. Feeling better and will be back to catching all the fun here now!

  2. Great review!! This one sounds amazing. I’ve got it sitting on my shelf I really need to read it. Thanks so much for sharing I’m bumping it up my list.

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