Soulless – Gail Carriger (The Parasol Protectorate Book One)

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 the 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 is 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? 

Genre: Fiction, Steampunk, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2009
Publisher: Orbit
Rating: 3/5

Soulless is the first novel in The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. It is set in an alternate version of nineteenth century London, where the vampires and werewolves are accepted and active members of society. 

Alexia Tarabotti, however, has some problems. She is 26-years-old, unmarried, of Italian heritage, and boasts a strong, opinionated personality. No wonder she has difficulties fitting into London's rigid social class system. To make matters worse, she is preternatural, meaning she has no soul. 

This isn't so bad. With one touch Alexia can counteract a supernatural ability and therefore she has no fear of becoming vampire food.... but she still finds her state highly embarrassing.

Just when Alexia thinks her situation couldn't get any worse she accidentally kills a vampire with her parasol. Now she has to deal with the irritating Lord Maccon who has disliked her even since the hedgehog incident. Or so she thinks. 

Soon Alexia finds herself tangled up in a mystery involving a mad scientist, a flamboyant vampire, an extremely frightening waxed-faced man, a best friend with a horrifying taste in fashion and a horny werewolf, to name a few. She must deal with this all while trying to maintain the correct social decorum.

What did I think of this novel?

This was an interesting novel. Very different from anything I have read before. Carriger has managed to create something original out of the overdone paranormal genre. For this, I must commend her. Sure she has obviously borrowed from many other works, but what author doesn't, in a world where everything has been done before? I must admit, while reading this novel it felt like she picked a number of things that she had an interest in and mashed them all together to create a story. But it worked. Carriger has taken popular elements and made them her own.

This novel was also quite funny. Carriger writes with wit and this story does not take itself seriously. I am not a big fan of paranormal romance, so I found this element of the story a little tiresome (how many scenes did Lord Maccon have to be naked in, with Alexia pondering his manhood?... this novel is reminiscent of a bodice ripper!) but the humour in the story made up for that.

This was my first foray into steampunk and although I enjoyed this story, I have a feeling that it is not typical of this genre. The paranormal romance in this novel seemed paramount and there was no real exploration into steampower or invention from a Victorian viewpoint, which is what I understood the steampunk genre to be about.

I look forward to reading the second novel in this series to see how the story develops as I think it has potential. 

What did you think of this novel? How true was it, to the steampunk genre? Which steampunk works would you recommend I read next?
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