Dissecting The Cover:
This cover is oh-so-subtle yet tee-totes-perfect for this series. It manages to convey what the story is about without really giving anything away. Alexia actually looks the way she's described in the book right down to her trusty parasol. And I like the juxtaposition between foggy old England and the bright, neon 80sness of the title.
Miss Alexia Tarabotti has some major troubles.
First off, and perhaps most troublesome, she has no soul.Secondly, and far less offensively (except to certain folks in London society,) she's a spinster with an appreciation for knowledge, literature, and long unescorted walks about town.
Thirdly, and most recently, she was attacked by a vampire whom she subsequently had to kill.
Well things get considerably worse when a failed attempt to abduct Miss Tarabotti reveals a nefarious plot threatening the supernatural population.
Vampires have gone missing only to be mysteriously replaced by new, dreadfully impolite ones. But who's turning these new vamps? And who's going after the loner werewolves? And how does Alexia fit into all of this?
Here's What I Think:
Soulless is the first book in The Parasol Protectorate series, an interesting take on those old sci-fi/fantasy favorites: our overly used paranormal pals, vampires and werewolves.
So how has Gail Carriger managed to, pardon the pun, revamp (har, har!) these classic beasties?
Well, unlike most novels I've read about them, this one is set sometime in the 19th century. We're never given a specific date but everyone is very concerned about manners and dressing appropriately and tea. So, do the math on that one.
Another difference is that their existence isn't this huge secret being kept from humans. The supernatural set is out and proud, y'all. Not that all humans are necessarily excepting of them. After all, there's no Lady Gaga yet. So there's no one to tell them that it's ok to be Born This Way. Or Turned This Way, rather.
So, for the most part, humans are still kind of afraid of them what with the fangs and the massive hindquarters and whatnot. But some people are more enlightened. And the supernatural-ies do have their own government-type agency. Soooo... progress?
Anyhoo, another way Ms. Carriger differentiates her novel from others is that she decided that some points in history were so obvs the work of vampires and werewolves. So homegirl rewrites history! You know that whole British Empire thing? They were totally involved.
I'm not used to such things. Most of the vamp/werewolf fiction I've read has been set in modern times and usually involves a forbidden teenage love triangle of some kind. So this was a nice departure from my ushe and I thought the change was interesting.
However, even though this tale is set in polite times, don't get it twisted.
Miss Alexia Tarabotti is more of a Katniss than a Bella. In fact, I'm fairly certain that if Alexia ever met Bella, the first thing she would do is hit her up side the head with her parasol. Although I'm equally sure that she would be super appalled by Katniss' lack of manners as well. But I digress.
Alexia is a very headstrong girl. She knows what she wants. She does what she wants to do. She says what she wants to say. She goes where she wants to go (unescorted!) She is the way she is. And even though she might not be everyone's cup of tea, she stays true to who she is. Which is a very bad ass move. Especially given the time period.
Although I suppose it is a little easier for Alexia to be so brave given the fact that she has no soul. Which sounds horrible BUT it also means that she has this special power that negates the powers of the supernatural. Which totally comes in handy when shit starts to go down. And by shit, I of course mean of the paranormal variety.
There's this whole mystery that Alexia becomes inadvertently tangled up in. And since it has to do with the supernatural community, Lord Conall Maccon, resident alpha werewolf, BUR bossman, and Alexia's love interest, has to get involved too. So of course there's ca-ray-zy sexual tension between them, reminiscent of that between Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy. (Only minus all those miscommunications and plus some sexytimes!)
Actually I found quite a few similarities between this book and Pride and Prejudice.
Alexia is an even stronger-willed Lizzie Bennet. The fact that she's single and seems to scare away any prospects she might have doesn't seem to bother her. And she would rather read or have a nice walk with her bestie Ivy Hisselpenny (a total Charlotte!) than attend some tedious party or dance.
I definitely saw Mrs. Bennet in Alexia's mother. (So obviously I couldn't stand her.) And there were shades of Lydia and Kitty in Alexia's half sisters, Felicity and Evylin.
Lord Maccon wasn't a total Darcy though. I mean, his interactions with Miss Tarabotti, especially in the beginning, were very proud and prejudiced. But, actually I envisioned him more Beast from Beauty and the Beast rather than a waterlogged Colin Firth.
He's super stubborn and is used to people giving into him and being intimidated by him and simply giving him his way. Which is exactly why he and Alexia have that sexual tension I mentioned before. Because she doesn't let him get away with being so damn alpha-y.
Anyhoo, the characters are pretty much where the Pride and Prejudice comparison ends. Because Soulless has werewolves and vampires, a mystery and disappearances, scientists and a creepy waxlike man.
So, yeah. There's a lot going on in this book.
It starts out a little slow and a little confusing but the pace picks up eventually although the confusion is still there. There were just a few parts that I thought weren't explained all that well. I mean, quite frankly, I'm stupid, Ms. Carriger. Sometimes I need shizz spelled out for me. Maybe that's just my problem though. Maybe all of you know all about dewans and potentates and the inner workings of the BUR Agency and how to successfully stop a automaton but EvilEva needs a lil' help now and again.
And speaking of that automaton, that was like, my biggest gripe concerning this book. I mean, I liked how it was introduced and I thought it came off super creepy, which ya know I loves, but deactivating the damn thing was supremely anticlimactic in my opinion. I mean, I realize this is sci-fi, and believe me, I can suspend my disbelief as far as the vampires and the werewolves and Miss Tarabotti being a preternatural goes, but this automaton thing would have been much cooler if it took more than a simple handkerchief to shut its ass down.
Other than that one minor blip though, I liked this story. For me it was a new, interesting take on something that I'm used to reading on a YA level. Plus, points for me for starting out the year with an adult book!
Alexia is a rather strong-willed lady with several opinions that she doesn't mind sharing with pretty much anyone.
But this is the 19th century, baby. Opinionated, intelligent, willful ladies aren't seen as "marriage material."
So it'll take a certain kind of guy A.) to find Alexia with her abrasive personality and Italian features attractive and B.) to be strong enough himself to go toe to toe with her.
Enter Lord Conall Maccon. He's not only a werewolf but an Alpha to boot. So he can easily deal with Alexia, stubbornness and all. And what a totes cowink that all of the things that everyone else perceives as Alexia's "flaws" are exactly the things that Lord Maccon finds so irresistible about her. Her dark hair, her olive skin, her ample bosom and bottom, her generous mouth that WON'T STOP TALKING! It all just gives him the wolf-y tingles.
And Alexia is just as smitten with Lord Maccon's intelligence, commanding attitude, and brawny physique.
But now the most important question: did I feel the swoony-swoon? I'm not quite sure. I mean, Lord Maccon seems like an ok enough fella. But he's a little too bossy and demanding for my taste.
I was more drawn to Professor Lyall, Lord Maccon's right-hand man. He's smart and efficient and he gets shizz done. My kind of dude! :)
No, not of the Edward Cullen variety.
Lord Akeldama is Alexia's Sassy Gay Friend! He's outrageous and gossipy, he has a harem of muscular lads with names like Biffy, AND he has a wardrobe to rival that of Claudia Kishi!
He can definitely expect this girl to drop by for tea and the latest dish on the scandalous exploits of London's high society anytime!
If You Liked That, Try This:
The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.
Insatiable by Meg Cabot.
The Scale Of Judgment Says:
It's like if The Luxe had a baby with Twilight and they decided to raise it half sci-fi half steampunk.