BoatGirl’s #CBR4 Review #39: Soulless by Gail Carriger
Soulless is book 1 of the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. A friend recommended it as a fun set of books about vampires and steampunk and I pricked up my ears and went “Oh really?!”
This book was like candy. I zipped right through it, enjoying every outrageous minute and wanting more.
The series jumps in by introducing Alexia Tarabotti, spinster. She’s at a ball, in search of the tea she was promised, when she is rudely attacked by a vampire. As vampires are an assimilated part of London society, she takes offense only at his rudeness in attempting to bite her without introduction or invitation. And, as due to a quirk of nature she herself is immune to vampires, she inadvertently kills him when she pokes him with her parasol.
Lord Conall Maccon appears to clean up the mess. A werewolf and head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registery, Lord Maccon and Alexia apparently already know each other due to some incident, never fully explained, with a hedgehog and for which he blames her. There is a great deal of sniping between them as he tries clear things up. Clearly, they are destined for each other.
Alexia must find out where the vampire came from, and why he didn’t have a hive (essentially, vampire coven) to take care of him. Why was he starving and why so poorly dressed? Vampires are usually at the forefront of fashion. Her investigation will involve her dear friends, Lord Akeldama, the oldest independent vampire in London and Ivy Hisselpenny, spinster with atrocious taste in hats.
As she uncovers a plot to destroy vampires by a mysterious organization using the symbol of a brass octopus, Alexia will draw closer to Lord Maccon, learn a little about her deceased father (from whom she inherited her abnormality, the titular soullessness) and cow London with her trusty parasol.
I wasn’t sure how vampires were going to work with steampunk, but it was amazing. The steampunk setup provides a background wherein scientists are actively trying to explain things, including the vampires, werewolves and ghosts that they coexist with. Theories are set up about how only people with excess “soul” as commonly found in artists of all sorts can survive the transition to supernatural, while Alexia is of the subset of people born with no soul whatsoever, who function as sort of a natural antidote to them. Great summer reading, and very funny.