Review – Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless (Soulless #1) by Gail Carriger
Librarything / Goodreads

Genre: Steampunk/Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 256

Summary: 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?

Soulless is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

Thoughts: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of no soul must be in want of a werewolf.

I’ve read dozens of great reviews for Soulless – they’re not hard to find. Rapturous, joyful reviews about a book about proudly claims to be about “Vampires, Werewolves and Parasols”. And yet I never picked it up – nor did I want to. Something about the premise – a girl with no soul, a Scottish werewolf, and steampunk Victorian London – just put me off. I recognise that most people would have exactly the opposite response, but not me. It wasn’t until I saw Jenny’s (Wondrous Reads) ludicrously positive review that I considered changing my mind. If Carriger could convince this hardcore YA fan of her awesomeness, she must be pretty damn talented.

She is – this book was fabulous! Soulless is the steampunk, urban fantasy version of a Jane Austen novel – the literary equivalent of a cotton-candy crumpet – Lord of Scoundrels pimped out with vampires. Loved. It.

It took me a little while to get used to Carriger’s tongue-in-cheek yet formal style, but once I did, I absolutely adored it. Both her writing and her plot made me giggle like a mad woman, she’s witty but with a slight edge. I made not of quite a few lines that stood out for me, here are some of my favourites:

“How ghastly for her,” said Alexia, driven beyond endurance into comment. “People actually thinking, with their brains, and right next door. Oh, the travesty of it all.” – p.27

‘Highland werewolves had a reputation for doing atrocious and highly unwarranted things, like wearing smoking jackets to the dinner table. Lyall shivered at the delicious horror of the very idea.’ – p.108

‘Cats were not, in her experience, an animal with much soul. Prosaic, practical little creatures as a general rule. It would suit her very well to be thought catlike.’ – p. 130

Soulless is one of those rare books that consumes you. You try to set it down for the night, but you just can’t. It had fantastic world building, a unique take on the whole vampire/werewolf business, and some characters to die for. Lord Maccoon was utterly swoon-worthy and his snarky interactions with Alexia were just fabulous. He’s a perfectly reasonable werewolf who turns rather intolerable when dealing with Alexia’s rather infuriating disposition. Alexia, as you might have gathered, is extremely independent yet very proper. Always up to date with the latest science and fashion news – she’s a lady with a brain who shall hit you over the head with a parasol if you get cheeky.

But, most of all, I loved Macoon’s Beta Lyall. Despite seeming rather aloof, he always had his eye on the ball. He’s the exasperated aunt who manages to guide you through life by the nose without offending your ego. I’d say “I completely agree, that’s a lovely idea… but perhaps…” is Lyall’s most commonly used phrase. It worked like a charm on every character – myself included.

However, there were a few things I rather disliked. For one, at times the novel seemed a bit too much like a romance. It was almost as if it couldn’t decide what it was, so settled somewhere half-way between full-out romance and full-out fantasy. Basically, this amounted to crude references instead of full-frontal scenes. It just completely threw me off and was rather inappropriate. I am in no ways a prude but the “sexy” references just weren’t meant for this book.

I also took issue with the depiction of scientists in this novel. On the one hand, Alexia is a huge fan of the sciences and the new-fangled technology it produces. Yet, the average “scientist” is presented as a logical-and-intelligent madman. My problem with this? A) Somewhat offensive – you never see evil gardeners killing in search of the greatest pesticide. B) Very cliche. I’ve seen, read, and sat next to these villains on the bus. It was an exciting concept when Mary Shelley wrote it, but it got old fast.

Even still, Soulless was a fab read that I devoured in just over a day.

Bottom line? If you’re looking for a twist on your paranormal, look no further. Soulless has unforgettable character and will make even the most devoted coffee-lover brew a cup of tea.