Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)
by Gail Carriger
Cover Artist: Photo: Derek Caballero
Review by Gayle Surrette
Orbit Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316056632
Date: 01 October 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Soulless, by Gail Carriger had one of the most intriguing book blurbs to come across my desk in quite a while. "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." As a rabid Jane Austen fan, I just couldn't let this one get away.
Soulless is a wonderful quirky mix of Victorian Era etiquette, steampunk, urban fantasy, mystery, and romance. Alexia Tarabotti in many ways is a very modern woman in attitudes and intellectual pursuits who happens to live in a very restrictive society for women. She's considered a bluestocking and spinster (she never actually had a coming out because she was considered so unmarriageable because of her reading, complexion (Italian), and nose (Roman)). Our story begins as she's attacked by a vampire to whom she hadn't even been introduced.
In this world, the vampires and werewolves have come out of the closet, so to speak, in Europe and are part of society. The United States on the other hand, kills them on detection as abominations. England has a department to deal with the supernaturals and it's while dealing with the vampire who attacked Miss Tarabotti that a bigger problem is uncovered -- new vampires with no knowledge of vampire society and rules are being created. This, of course, is against the law. This investigation uncovers even more irregularities. Attempts to kidnap Miss Tarabotti seem to indicate that she's a target and these crimes may be connected.
Since we are told most of the novel from Alexia Tarabotti's point of view, the reader gets a very interestingly skewed view of society, her place in it, and her feelings about the people she interacts with. The dialogue is spot on to the period and in places maybe a bit over the top -- personally, I loved the voice of this novel. The story is well plotted and paced, the characters memorable, the setting richly described. The humor throughout is character driven and in places was outrageously funny, totally appropriate, or nervous reaction to the situation.
I was enchanted from start to finish. This is the most refreshingly different book I've read in a long time. I'm really looking forward to the next book in the Parasol Protectorate series, Changeless.