Soulless by Gail Carriger

SoullessParasol Protectorate book 1

a review by Nalini Haynes

Alexia Tarabotti is a soulless half-Italian, entirely English, young lady living in Victorian England. Her kind is called ‘preternatural’ due to her soulless state and her ability to turn a vampire or a werewolf human by mere touch. Alexia is sitting in a library at a ball in the Duchess of Snodgrass’ house, when a vampire with fang lisp and terrible clothes tries to bite her. The vampire is killed in self-defence, promptly bringing Lord Conall Maccon, werewolf and member of the BUR, the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, down upon her. Alexia has known Maccon for a few years, during which time they have had numerous conflicts, especially after an incident involving a hedgehog upon which Lord Maccon sat. After escaping that encounter, Alexia consulted with another longtime friend, Lord Akeldama, a gay vampire dandy.

Soulless is half adventure and half romance, with Alexia embroiled in the supernatural community playing detective to learn why new vampires are appearing and established members of the supernatural community are disappearing. Soulless is told in a very English voice, aspiring to the sensibilities appropriate to the era. There is a definite flavour of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in Soulless. Both Alexia’s soulless pragmatism, Maccon’s uncivilised behaviour and the villains, successfully bridge the gap to this era. Carriger acknowledges the influence of Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde and P.D. Wodehouse upon her writing but she has also combined steampunk and ‘Bit Lit’ to create a surprising runaway hit. Soulless is aimed at adults or the mature market but it’s still suitable for teens.

Carriger received numerous nominations and awards for Soulless, which is also being made into a graphic novel. She also has one of the most extensive websites I’ve come across, with pages on her books, backgrounds to characters, an electronic ‘paper doll’ kit, a short bio, more extensive interviews, notes and blogs about herself and her books. Soulless is the book Carriger wanted to read. Soulless can be read as a stand alone story but The Parasol Protectorate series is best read as a series in order. Carriger has only planned 5 books for this series, but she is talking about writing more books set in the same world, focusing on different characters.

The Parasol Protectorate series is a smash hit, appealing to men and women of all ages for good reason. Fans of steampunk, Bit Lit (vampires and werewolf literature), action, comedy and romance will enjoy Soulless. I love the series.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 5, September 2011.  This blog has been pre-dated to reflect the date of original publication.