Thursday, October 22, 2009

Soulless - by Gail Carriger

When Kimber An asked me if I would review SF and other SpecFic books for her blog I agreed on one condition. I didn’t want to read any Vampire books. Most modern Vampire Fiction makes me want to run screaming into the night, and probably not for the intended reasons. BUT, what good is making your own rules if every once in a while you can’t break them. Soulless is a book worth breaking rules to read. First off although there are vampires it’s not really Vampire Fiction. It is a Gaslight/Semi-Steampunk/Semi-Alternative History/Paranormal Romance or as the cover says “ A novel of Vampires Werewolves and Parasols.”

Doesn’t that tag alone grab your interest?

Alexia Tarabotti has several strikes against her as far as society is concerned. She’s a spinster-at the dried-up age of 25, she’s a hopeless bluestocking, and her father, who at least has the good grace to have died when she was an infant, was a scholar of things best not talked about in civilized drawing rooms, and Italian too boot. So it’s not surprising that due to an attack of boredom, and the poor quality of food on the buffet, at the Duchess of Snodgrove’s Ball Alexia takes herself off the the Library and orders the servants to bring her tea . Just as she is settling in to exploring the Duke’s under appreciated library a vampire rushes into the room and tries to bight her neck – without a proper introduction! Well, Alexia my be unconventional but she won’t stand for things like that. Unfortunately for the vampire in question, who is shabbily dressed in last season’s style of evening wear, Alexia has inherited more than her unfashionable tan skin, robust figure, and strong nose from her father - Like him she is soulless.

In this enlighten period of the triumph of science this isn’t a religious statement, but a description of her physiology. It seems intelligent creatures are divided into three groups. The vast majority of people are Naturals, with just enough soul to go through a normal life. Some people have an excess of soul, they are Supernatural. If they die under the right circumstances they become Vampires, Werewolves or Ghosts. A few people are Preternatural, they have no or very little soul. Contact with them negates the advantages extra soul gives Supernaturals. Vampires, Werewolves and Ghosts are all productive members of society. There is not of the preying on innocent Naturals that went on in the past. Supernaturals are licensed and policed by the Bureau of Unnatural Registry

Alexia unintentional kills her vampire attacker with her trusty parasol. This complication brings Lord Maccon, head of the BUR, chief werewolf in London and close adviser or Queen Victoria on Supernatural matters, into the picture. He and Alexia have been something between friends and enemies ever since the infamous hedgehog incident at a house-party the year before. He’s large, loud, handsome, and almost civilized, for a Scott. Reluctantly he accepts Alexia’s help trying to find out what Vampire Hive is letting its fledglings our so poorly dressed and lacking in manners. They discover a trail of missing lone wolfs and solitary vampires that is quite perplexing. Then the plot thickens…

The best comparison I can think of for this novel is Amelia Peabody meats Buffy. But that does not do it justice. It is charming, engaging , has HEA, and best of all is the planned first book in a series of adventures featuring Alexia and Lord Maccon.

There is a little violence, and some sex, but nothing that is beyond very mild.


Kimber An said...

Great review, Mfitz!

I'm not into standard issue vampires either, but this story sounds like a hoot and great world-building too.

Mfitz said...

I thought it was great fun. Even folks who don't usually do Paranormal Fiction will enjoy it, if they like a quirky read.

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

Right I'm sold. You write well. That was a brilliant review,thanns for sharing.
All the very best,