Soulless by Gail Carriger
Genre: romance, light steampunk, fantasy
On my TBR list?: Yes, since Nov 2009
Book #1 of The Parasol Protectorate, 3 books published so far
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Summary, from Goodreads:
Without a morsel of exaggeration, its publisher describes this debut novel as "a comedy of manners set in Victorian London full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking." At the center of Soulless's "parasol protectorate" is Miss Alexia Tarabotti, a young woman who lacks not only a suitor but also a soul. And those are not her only problems: When she accidentally kills a vampire, it begins a series of events that she must set out to resolve without the help of any proper authorities.
It has been quite a while since a book grabbed my attention from the very first page, but Soulless managed to do exactly that. It is a charming mix of 19th-century romance and the supernatural, with just enough steampunk thrown in to spice up the story without boring less science-inclined readers like me. This sense of balance is exhibited in several ways throughout the book.
The first example of Carriger's balanced writing style is our heroine, Alexia Tarabotti. She is feisty enough to appeal to a modern reader, yet none of her behavior steps so far outside the parameters of her 19th-century setting as to be unbelievable. Carriger also did an excellent job of writing the lovemaking scenes in a manner that does not jolt the reader out of the story. I've read more than one book that goes "literature, literature, literature, PORN, literature, literature"; the sex scenes were so shocking that they seemed to have been lifted from a different manuscript. In the case of Soulless, the author manages to construct the amorous passages in the same lilting style of the rest of the story, with a well-placed nudge and a wink.
All in all, I would say that this is a first-rate showing, especially for a debut novel. If you follow me on Goodreads, then you know that my 18-year old is already clamoring to read it. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than that because the love scenes, while tastefully written, are still explicit enough that I would feel uncomfortable handing the book to my 14-year-old daughters. This book may be a tad too romantic for the hardcore steampunk or supernatural fans, but I think it could appeal to the readers who don't mind a touch of those fantastical elements in their romance stories.
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