A review by Nalini Haynes
Alexia Tarabotti is a soulless half-Italian, entirely English, young lady living in Victorian England. She is ‘preternatural’ due to her soulless state and her ability to turn a vampire or a werewolf human by mere touch. Alexia sits in a library at a ball in the Duchess of Snodgrass’ house. Then a vampire with fang lisp and terrible clothes tries to bite her.
She kills it in self-defense. Lord Conall Maccon, werewolf and member of the BUR, the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, bears down upon her. Alexia and Maccon are acquaintances of a few years, during which time they have had numerous conflicts. Especially due to 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.
What genre is this?
Soulless is half adventure and half romance, with Alexia embroiled in the supernatural community playing detective. Why are new vampires appearing and established members of the supernatural community disappearing?
Soulless is told in a very English voice, aspiring to the sensibilities appropriate to the era. A definite flavour of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility abound as well as Oscar Wilde.
Alexia’s soulless pragmatism, Maccon’s uncivilised behaviour and the villains successfully bridge the cultural divide for contemporary readers. 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 aims for an adults audience but it’s still suitable for teens.
Renown with accolades and bonus material
Carriger received numerous nominations and awards for Soulless, currently under conversion to the graphic medium. Graphic novel, that is.
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. It 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. (Update: there are A LOT more books and short stories set in that world now. More information is available in this podcast where Gail visits DMZ and also on Gail’s website.)
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. (Update: and all Gail’s other books.)
Previously published in Dark Matter issue 5, September 2011. This blog has been pre-dated to reflect the date of original publication and, in June 2023, updated to pander to SEO whims as well as adding links.