Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger
Title: Souless
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: The Parasol Protectorate #1
Pages: 373
Genre: Steampunk
Publisher: Orbit Books
Source: Bought

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.

My Review:
Soulless was only the second Steampunk book I had ever read. I first read it wayyyyy back when first started this blog, and I thought it only fitting to write a review for it now that it has come to mean so much to me. I started Soulless 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 am so glad that I decided to give it a try, because it threw me head first into the amazing world of Steam Age Victorian England and gave me the "Steampunk itch" if you will. Without Soulless and the rest of the Parasol Protectorate series, I doubt there would be a "Let's Get Steamy" event. Soulless combines the best of both worlds for me. Not only is there mechanical inventions of the nefarious sort, airships up the wazoo, and delightful misadventures with manners, but there is also a paranormal element to the series! Not all Steampunk has supernatural things (though a lot of them have "monsters" like the Kraken, sea-monsters, etc) but a lot of the more recent steampunk novels do, probably in part to capitalize on the wave of supernatural fandom that Harry Potter and Twilight created. I totally loved the paranormal in the Parasol Protectorate, because in addition to writing a fabulous Steampunk novel, Gail Carriger managed to add amazingly original ideas to the Paranormal genre as well.

I was pleasantly surprised by the main character Alexia. At the beginning of the novel, I kind of thought of her as one of the most boring characters ever...She whined about deportment and etiquette for the first few pages so I thought she was going to be this terrible annoyance that I would have to grit my teeth just to read. Yeah that changed within about 3 pages or so...All the sudden she started to have witty and biting arguments with a hulking, 6-foot, werewolf and fighting off vampires while spouting off about the latest issue of "inventors monthly" or some-such...She does tend to drone on about the inventions, but if you actually listen to her ramblings, you find out a LOT about the setting, time, and mood of the book so I suppose the ramblings are nessicary.

Like I said before, Carriger has managed to come up with truly original takes on the paranormal genre. 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 the world of the Parasol Protectorate, 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. If you are killed by a vampire or werewolf and you have excessive soul, you become one of them. If you are killed in a normal way and have that little extra life left in you,you become a ghost. Fantastic! I would SO have been a ghost...anyways, Alexia becomes an even more fascinating character when you learn that 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. They are more on the hilarious side than the actual "believable" side, but they sure are fun. On occasion I do find myself wishing for such things as automatons, dirigibles, and gadgety parasols in real life .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 full 10 minutes or so. For example, Lord Akeldama is a Vampire shall we say this...bats for the other team? Yes that 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 can barely get through the pages because you're dying with laughter. 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.
Soulless, and the Parasol Protectorate series in general is absolutely fantastic for the first time Steam-reader. I loved the plot, the characters, the imagery, and the setting...all awesome. All fully developed and well written. It's the perfect transition series for someone who doesn't know if they like the genre, or who are looking for a fresh, witty, and light version of what can sometimes be gritty and harsh. If you are into the paranormal, this is definitely one to try just because of the supernatural aspects.This is a fantastic book and should definitely become part of your keeper shelf or TBR pile.
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  1. I started reading this but put it back down....Thanks for the review, I will have to give it another try!

    1. Definitely do Cass! I was confused and didn't like it at first but now I absolutely adore the series! :D

  2. I have been wanting to read this series for a while. For some reason I thought it was YA, but I realized I was confusing it for Dearly, Departed.

    P.S. I am the same Ashley Prince from the Let's Get Steamy post. I am having troubles with my old email account that is connected to the Blogger account that I normally comment with here. From now on, it will just be the Name/URL option.

  3. Oh my gosh! I can't tell you how much I want to read this series. I love the covers on all three books. In fact the cover for Soulless is what caught my eye and made me take a closer look. Quirky...yes that is the right word for it. I think they are amazing. Excellent review, now I really must go out and buy these.

  4. I haven't really read any Steampunk unless The Infernal devices counts but this series sounds interesting and I may just have to give it a try.

  5. Enjoyed the review, will have to give this a read sounds very interesting

  6. I've had this book sitting on my shelf for almost a year and I think it's time I read it! Thanks for the great review :)

    Crystal @ Elegantly Bound Books

  7. I love love LOVE this series. I have read the first three books so far and I can't get enough of Alexia. She is simply one of those unforgettable character! :)

  8. YAY! Parasol Protectorate! I honestly like the first one the best I think...the third was NOT acceptable without a large wolfy man in the picture...but I can't wait till the last one in the series! I'm probably going to cry when I'm done!