Author: Gail Carriger
Series: The Parasol Protectorate #1
Publisher: Orbit Books
Prickly, stubborn 25-year-old bluestocking Alexia Tarabotti is patently unmarriageable, and not just because she's large-nosed and swarthy. She's also soulless, an oddity and a secret even in a 19th-century London that mostly accepts and integrates werewolf packs, vampire hives and ghosts. The only man who notices her is brash Lord Conall Maccon, a Scottish Alpha werewolf and government official, and (of course) they dislike each other intensely. After Alexia kills a vampire with her parasol at a party—how vulgar!—she and Conall must work together to solve a supernatural mystery that grows quite steampunkishly gruesome. Well-drawn secondary characters round out the story, most notably Lord Akeldama, Alexia's outrageous, italic-wielding gay best vampire friend.
I started this book not knowing at all what to expect. The cover was pretty cool, but kind of weird and I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. I was really confused with the language from page one, thinking I had mistakenly bought some kind of classic book that I had never heard of that had been re-vamped so that the cover was more appealing to the modern age *cough cough* note how the cover of Romeo and Juliet now suspiciously looks a lot like Twilight...*cough* Anywho...Soulless was only my second Steampunk book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although I guess I'm not very well versed in the genre. I don't know if supernatural elements are present in all of them or if they only show up in the ones that I have read. I thought that a book was classified as steampunk if it was set in a vaguely Victorian era, and technology had evolved in a different way, using steam power and things like dirigibles and glassicles and things like that. However, all of the books I've read have vampires or weres or ghosts or some combination of the three. I guess I'm wondering if that is a qualification of making a book steampunk. Would a Victorian-aged, steam powered era book without the paranormal element just be called Steam? Lol I'm not sure.
I was pleasantly surprised by Alexia. At the beginning of the novel, I kind of thought of her as one of the most boring characters ever...yeah that changed within about 3 pages or so...She does tend to drone on about inventions and such, but if you actually listen to her ramblings, you find out about a bunch of cool inventions and beliefs of the time. The concept that supernatural creatures are a progression of the "soul" is so amazing. I don't know why no one has thought of it before! In this world, supernaturals are humans who have an excess of soul. One can only become supernatural if you have enough soul to survive the transformation, and not many do. This makes Alexia a fascinating character, because she is the antithesis of all supernaturals, she's a null. She is soulless...and possesses the ability to suck out the supernaturals "superpowers". When Alexia touches a paranormal, they are rendered mortal. That's right, fangs sucked in, were's lose their fur, and ghosts go POOF. As you can imagine, this causes considerable stir, as were's like her because they don't HAVE to change when they are near her...but vampires want to kill her because they lose their immortality, strength, and fighting abilities when in contact with her.
I absolutely LOVE all of the steampunky gadgetry and inventions and things. On occasion I do find myself wishing for such things as automatons, dirigibles, and gadgety parasols.Come on...who wouldn't want to kick ass with like...darts shot from your parasol tip, or a knife that pops out of the bottom, or knock-out gas that sprays out of it when you press a button? Ass-kickery with stile :) ...and yes I just made up the word "kickery" it is now patented. Also, if you think about it, dirigibles (air ships for those not in the know) could be the future mode of transportation. We've got a limited amount of gasoline and fossil fuels on the earth, and according to some sources we will run out within 20-30 years. What then? How will we go to Disney World? How will we visit our friends and family who live states or even countries away? Well here's our answer! The only thing that makes me worry is the highly flammable nature of the ships...I would rather not blow up because someone lit a match too close to the helium/hydrogen/whatever balloon.
I found myself laughing out loud way more than I thought I would. I wasn't expecting comedy, I was expecting all things dark, gritty, and vampirey. Yet at times there was such absurdity and chaos that I would have to set my nook down and just laugh and laugh for a minute. For example, Lord Akeldama is a Vampire that...how shall we say this...bats for the other team? Yes that works...so he is captured and traumatized, but then when his harem of men find him they are utterly ridiculous with their screams and running around and basically being flamboyant gay-boys that you just giggle for the entire page. Biffy has to be my favorite of Akeldama's drones. He is flamboyant as they come, but smart as anyone. He is probably the key to Akeldama's empire of information, and I just love him. Also, there was this ridiculous notion of manners and etiquette. It's hard to describe, but there was so much understated humor, and awkwardness that I came away from the book feeling extremely giddy and totally excited for the next one in the series.
I am now fully in love with Steampunk! I loved the plot, the characters, the imagery, and the setting...all awesome. All fully developed and well written. I have SO much more to say about this book/series! I didn't even get to talk about how swoon-worthy the love interest Conall is! Well, that will have to wait until I read the next in the series. The Parasol Protectorate is the perfect transition series for someone who doesn't know if they like the genre, or someone who wants to give it a try for the first time. It's like Pride and Prejudice meets Twilight, and I really REALLY enjoyed it. I hope you will give Alexia and her parasol of pain a try.