Thursday, April 18, 2013

What I'm Reading: Soulless by Gail Carriger

In light of my recent obsession with British television, my current reading habits have been nothing to talk about. Sadly, I've watched all of Shameless, Call the Midwife, and Mr. Selfridge that I can. Happily, this means I've had a book in hand for the past few days.

Title:   Souless:  An Alexia Tarabotti Novel

Author:  Gail Carriger

Publisher:  Hachette Book Group

Pages:  365

Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy/Paranormal

Setting:  Victorian England

Where did you get it? Barnes and Noble

Why did you read it? I confess that I bought this book first, because it was steampunk/paranormal but secondly, because of the cover. The "about the author" cracked me up.

From the publisher:  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?

What did you think? I am very new to the steampunk sub-genre of science fiction. This is only the second novel I've read in that category. Steampunk is such an interesting facet of science fiction. So far, both novels I've read have been set in Victorian England which I love and I also like the "what if" aspects of steampunk as well. They explore steam-powered technology that didn't actually exist at the time:  automatons and gadgetry with an emphasis on air travel via souped up zeppelins. I find it all very interesting.  

Souless was a very fun read. The protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti is the daughter of a dead Italian and a mother who did her best to crush Alexia's soul...had she had one to crush. The ensuing romance between Alexia and the werewolf, Lord Maccon, was also fun. Carriger's sex scenes are pretty mild when compared to other paranormal romances that I've read. Alexia and Maccon were so likeable I thought. Considering that this is the first book in the series, I also thought that the romance part was scooted along faster than it needed to be.

Carriger's paranormal world consists of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and the soulless like Alexia. I thought her take on the paranormal was inventive if not entirely unique. I also liked that Carriger didn't put an overt emphasis on politics which is often a defining quality of steampunk.

So, you have paranormal, steampunk, history, and romance all contained within one novel. I liked all aspects of the novel and I thought that it had more depth to it than just a romance or just an urban fantasy. However, I think that Carriger could have fleshed out the paranormal aspect, in particular, a little bit more than she did. A little more explanation and background would have been welcome. Even Carriger said that she had a hard time balancing so many genres and sub-genres. Still, I give it a solid three stars (on Goodreads) if not 3 and 1/2 which is somewhere in between "I liked it" and "I really liked it". I liked it well enough that I'm looking forward to picking up book two.

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