Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review: Soulless

Souless by Gail Carriger
Parasol Protectorate Series

I initially heard about this book from one of the librarians where I work.  On Staff In-Service Day back in November, she expounded on the wonderfulness of this book during a live session of 'We Recommend' that is normally in our staff newsletter.  I promptly decided I needed to read this book, and placed a hold on the book the very next day.  Needless to say, it took me till the first week of February for my turn to come around, as there are only three copies of the book in circulation.  However, I found it more than worth the wait.

This book is part of the growing steampunk movement in fantasy, and makes a big nod to the urban fantasy movement.  Essentially, its an urban fantasy set in Victorian London with steampunk elements such as dirigibles.  Werewolves and vampires abound, as well as mad scientists.  There's also a large dash of romance in the plot.  The whole mix works because this is also a consciously humorous book that doesn't take itself or anything else seriously.

The premise of the book is that Miss Alexia Tarrabotti, the protagonist, has no soul and can therefore cancel out the powers of werewolves and vampires while touching them.  Just like in urban fantasy set in the modern age, werewolves and vampires are known to the everyday populace and are regulated by a government agency to make sure nothing gets out of hand.  Miss Tarrabotti, partly through accident and partly through her own stubborn curiosity, becomes involved in a government investigation to find missing vampires and werewolves, as well as to figure out why vampires no one admits to making and no one has trained are being found in odd places, such as a ducal ball.  The investigation is headed up by the local werewolf Alpha and sparks fly between him and Miss Tarrabotti.

Perhaps the one downside to this book (although I enjoyed it) is the incredible amount of vocabulary the author uses.  She has a convincing grasp on British Victorian speech mannerisms, and has made Miss Tarrabotti a bluestocking, thereby allowing her protagonist a large vocabulary as well.  Again, I enjoyed this immensely, but those who don't have as large of a vocabulary as I do may want a thesaurus or a dictionary while reading.

On a side note, Orbit Books has a nice dress up doll featuring Miss Tarrabotti and her actual wardrobe here.


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