Friday, August 20, 2010

No Soul but Plenty of Personality


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.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire-- and the appalling Lord Macon (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 plan embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

Title: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: The Parasol Procterate, Book 1
Start & Finished: 7/22/10- 7/27/10
Published: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Orbit (Hatchette Book Group)
Pages: 357 (paperback)
Genre: Victorian Urbane Fantasy/ Romance- Steampunk, Comedy

“What’s the weirdest most eccentric historical phenomenon of them all? Answer: The Great British Empire. Clearly, one tiny island could only conquer half the known world with supernatural aid. Those absurd Victorian manners and ridiculous fashions were obviously dictated by vampires. And, without a doubt, the British army regimental system functioned on werewolf pack dynamics.” This was what inspired Gail Carriger (which is a pseudonym) to write her debut novel Soulless, which is the first story in her Parasol Protectorate Series featuring Miss Alexia Tarabotti. Soulless was the winner of ALA’s Alex Award (books written for adults with an appeal to YA audiences), a Locus Award Finalist (write-ins from readers of the Locus magazine) for first novel, a few other award nominations, and on several bestseller lists.

I don't read that much set in Victorian times, I’ve never read a steampunk novel before, and I'm not a Jane Austen fan yet I still just adored Soulless because though it has all of these elements, it remains modern too. I wasn’t sure what to think about this at first since everything seems to be written in third person but it didn’t take me long to realize I had discovered something truly unique. It was an amazingly built alternate world, the story and characters were actually funny, and the romance angle is swoon-worthy. The alternate history on why people left for The Colonies (Queen Elizabeth sanctioned the supernatural presence in England, making America into a “deeply superstitious place“) was interesting but it doesn’t reflect favorably upon America (‘Strange place, that overseas land, where religion and wealth did the talking and history and age held so little sway‘). Which is why I had originally thought the author herself was British but she’s actually American too.

Alexia is very prim and proper (even slightly snobbish at times) but at the same time exactly the opposite of what you think of when you hear those words. She’s a lady but she never hesitates to say what’s on her mind, bash the rude over the head with her parasol, and do precisely as she wants despite society’s rules. She’s a very intelligent woman (not quite as intelligent as Agatha from Girl Genius but they could definitely talk shop, though for Alexia it‘s all theory) in an age when her gender is held against her and she’s very fond of tea and food too. I did think it was sad how much Alexia’s family seemed to dislike her though because being soulless doesn’t mean she doesn’t have feelings and their actions towards her has obviously affected her self-worth. Especially since her family does not know about her soulless state! Ms. Carriger said in an interview that Alexia was slightly inspired by a real person named Amelia B. Edwards who was also a very proper Victorian lady who wrote a book called A Thousand Miles up the Nile about traveling along the Nile in Egypt essentially by herself at a time when that simply wasn't done by a woman.

It’s very strange how Carriger presents her vampires. I’ve honestly never seen it done before (well, I‘ve never heard of a soulless human that can turn vampires and werewolves human by touch either but it was certainly neat). They’re mostly like bees and they even use bee terminology like drones, hives, queens, etc. It’s very odd but it does work for the world presented. The werewolves are very similar to others I have seen in fiction except that they eat a lot of raw meat. Normally I don’t like it when an author’s werewolves are more interesting or appealing than the vampires but I didn’t have that problem here (I don’t hate werewolves but I don’t love them very often. I do like all other kinds of Weres usually though), mainly because these characters are all so very rich and vibrant. Everyone from Alexia’s friend Ivy of the ugly hats to the flamboyant vampire friend Lord Akeldama of the dramatically outrageous fashions. The two werewolves presented were neat too. Professor Lyall actually reminded me a little of a Doctor Watson-type of character while Lord Maccon was very Alpha-male.

As you can probably tell, Soulless is a very character driven book and that is probably what made the story so very appealing to me. I really do hope that Ms. Carriger writes a short story one day featuring Alexia and Lord Maccon’s very meeting. That hedgehog incident that was referred to a few times sounds delightfully funny! I would love to see something with Lord Akeldama as well, maybe how he and Alexia first met. I could easily see a graphic novel for this entire series as well. The author has said that she would like to give Alexia’s father his own book at one point which I’d love to read because though he’s mentioned quite often in Soulless, there wasn’t too much information about him in the story. Not even how he died!

The author said in an interview that Soulless is essentially a “spoof on Victorian melodrama romance” but she added to it. If Carriger had not included the steampunk, alternate history, supernatural, and preternatural elements in this story it would have been a typical spinster-catches-handsome-earl type of romance but with the way everything was written, Soulless is truly an amazing book. I haven’t seen so many blending of genres done so expertly in such new ways since Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton (however, Alexia won‘t be featured in more than five novels). The author also “tossed nineteenth century science into the mix and realized that if the Victorians were studying vampires and werewolves (which they would do if they knew about them), not to mention developing weapons against them, technology would have evolved differently.” Carriger even sprinkled some steam punk, “as a side effect of [her] world’s theories about the soul” which is somewhat based in reality as there were scientists who tried to weigh the soul (by weighing the dead) in the real Victorian era, in amongst all the other subgenres too. In addition, she manages to add a bit of a mystery with the disappearing supernaturals and science fiction with the creepy scientists too. Can you tell how much I adored Soulless?

Favorite Quotes
The fact that Alexia was preternatural had been explained to her at age six by a nice gentleman from the Civil Service with silver hair and a silver cane-- a werewolf specialist. Along with the dark hair and prominent nose, preternatural was something Miss Tarabotti had to thank her dead Italian father for. What it really meant was that words like I or me were just excessively theoretical for Alexia. She certainly had an identity and a heart that felt emotions and all that; she simply had no soul. Miss Alexia, age six, had nodded politely at the nice silver-haired gentlemen. The she had made certain to read oodles of ancient Greek philosophy dealing with reason, logic, and ethics. If she had no soul, she also had no morals, so she reckoned she had best develop some kind of alternative.

Recently, this particular meadow, open to the sky and off the beaten track, had come into use by a dirigible company. They flew Giffard-style steam-powered airships with de Lome propellers. It was the latest and greatest in leisurely travel. The upper crust, in particular, had taken to the skies with enthusiasm. Floating had almost eclipsed hunting as the preferred pastime of the aristocracy. The ships were a sight to behold, and Alexia was particularly fond of them. She hoped one day to ride in one. The views were reportedly breathtaking, and they were rumored to serve an excellent high tea on board.

I kissed her,” he explained, aggrieved.
“Mmm, yes, I had the dubious pleasure of witnessing that, ah-hem, overly public occurrence.” Lyall sharpened his pen nib, using a small copper blade that ejected from the end of his glassicals.
“Well! Why hasn’t she done anything about it?” the Alpha wanted to know.
“You mean like whack you upside the noggin with that deadly parasol of hers? I would be cautious in that area if I were you. I am reasonably certain she had it custom made and tipped with silver.”

She was after all, soulless and practical. “Mine is not precisely a bad life. I have material wealth and good health. Perhaps I am not useful or beloved by my family, but I have never suffered unduly. And I have my books.”

The Parasol Protectorate Series
1. Soulless (2009)
2. Changeless (2010)
3. Blameless (2010)
4. Heartless (2011)
5. Timeless (2011)

First Paragraph: Miss Alexia Tarabotti was not enjoying her evening. Private balls were never more than middling amusements for spinsters, and Miss Tarabotti was not the kind of spinster who could garner even that much pleasure from the event. To put the pudding in the puff: she had retreated to the library, her favorite sanctuary in any house, only to happen upon an unexpected vampire.

Find Gail Carriger Online
Official Site
Livejournal Blog

The Soulless Victorian Dress-Up Doll Game
Alexia’s Character Dossier (PDF)
The Parasol Protectorate Facebook Group
My Book, The Movie (Guest Blog)
Book Girl Blodueuedd- About Characterization (Guest Blog)
Strange & Random Happenstance- A Paranormal Home in Victorian London (Guest Blog)
Butterfly Book Review- Historical Quirks (Guest Blog)

Scribbles & Stories
Murder By the Blog
With Characters Alexia Tarabotti & Jane True (from Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler)
Watch the Skies
RT Book Reviews
Natalie Allen
Ghost in the Machine (podcast)
I Should Be Writing (podcast)
Steampod- On Steampunk mostly (podcast)
Writing Habits Special (podcast)
The Agony Column (podcast)
Babbling About Books
The Hiding Spot
Fantastic Book Review
Jonathan Moeller's Backup Blog
Cleverly Inked

*If I missed yours, let me know

Source: Won from Ramblings of a Bibliophile (not active).

Book Trailer:

At BookExpo:

Picture Explanations
Wolf: Professor Lyall and Lord Maccon are both some of the werewolves in this book. Lyall travels in his wolf form a bit.
Parasol: Alexia is awfully fond of her parasol.
Ceiling: This could easily be Lord Akeldama’s ceiling. His home is just as elaborate as his clothes.
Octopus: The scientists in this book seem to have a fascination with these creatures for some reason.
Gail Carriger: I had to include one of the author’s publicity photos. Isn’t it great?!


  1. This is so different from what I normally read, but I am totally drawn to it, so I'm glad to see you loved it!

  2. Oh, wow, I had no idea there were 5 books planned! This is a book I ignored when it came out because I'd had enough of vampires, but this past few months other people have been blogging about it on blogs that I really enjoy and it's not part of the hype. I really hoped that my crappy library would have it, yet sadly they do not. I'll be a pb purchase for me come Christmas time!

  3. Great review. I really enjoyed this book as well. Thanks for all the extra links.

  4. I got this a while ago but still haven't gotten around to reading it. Sounds like I should make more effort. I love that it has steampunk elements.

  5. Loved loved loved this book :D And book 2 was so cool too.

    Btw saw that about reviews so here is mine

  6. Wow! Remarkable review of Soulless. Very thorough and extensive. How could you not want to read it after this? Well done.

  7. Bermudaonion: This was the first time I had ever tried steampunk but it was really, really good.

    Cat: She's only going to write 5 total in this series. There's actually not that many vampires in this particular book. I hope you love it!

    Jen D: Thank you!

    Rhinoa: Oh I'll just about guarantee you'll love it.

    Blodeudd: Thanks for the link! I haven't read the second one yet because I heard it ends on a cliffhanger so I'm going to wait for the third to come out.

    Carolina Valdez Miller: Aw! Thanks so much!

  8. Yes that I do recommend. The cliffhanger killed me! I finished the book and wanted Blameless at once, alas, no

  9. This is the first book I'll try to get from the library after I move three weeks from now. I'm absolutely dying to read it!

  10. Sounds like a great series, and I do love a well-written werewolf so I'll have to try and find this somewhere

  11. Blodeuedd: I know how I am about cliffhangers lol.

    Nymeth: I hope you love it as much as I do.

    Fence: I hope you like it! Lord Maccon is a great werewolf.

  12. I really enjoyed this too. I'm half afraid to read the next couple, though, in case they don't live up to it.

  13. I love Gail, I have a very comedic interview with her on my blog.

  14. Carolsnotebook: I've heard that the second one is even better than the first, the cliffhanger notwithstanding.

    Cleverly Inked: Off to find and link!

  15. LOved this book! Loved it! And Changeless even more if that is possible. I'm absolutely dying to get my hands on a copy of Blameless and you do not know how sad it makes me that she is only planning on writing 5 books with these characters. I love all of the characters in these books! Great review!

  16. wow, this sounds so good. I didnt know there were more books to come. I have to read this. Wonderful review!

  17. I adore the cover on this book. I can't wait to get a copy of it myself..sounds very good and interesting.



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