Book: Soulless By Gail Carriger.
It has been quite awhile since I last wrote a review on a novel of the supernatural genre, as always when reading books filled with vampires and werewolves alike, it can be quite difficult to encounter a story that is well written, innovative and has not been ‘Twilighted’ as I would like to call it. This novel definitely accomplishes this. And what’s more, it combines the supernatural with steam-punk and comedy! yes you read that correctly, this book will have the reader in fits of giggles quite regularly over it’s flamboyant and entertaining characters who range from vampires, werewolves, ghosts and other such preternaturals. Even in it’s darkest moments the author manages to incorporate a wicked sense of humour and an impressive supply of sarcasm that hooks the reader from the very first line. For fans of Austen, Downton Abbey and Steampunk, with a slight hint of Bridget Jones’s diary, this is the book for you! It is the ultimate chick lit, a guilty pleasure you cannot put down and having read the novel twice already in the last two years, it is a must. I must admit I had not heard of the Steampunk genre before the discovery of this book series, I obviously must have been living under a rock as it clearly has a huge fan base and tends to go hand in hand with the supernatural genus but this novel is successful in making these two categories quite normal.
In the novel itself, society has allowed the integration of the supernatural set. The author’s depiction of Victorian society is utterly brilliant. The vampires are ruled by their queen in hives, the werewolves are led by their Alpha, and the humans are ruled by none other than Queen Victoria. Even a supernatural police force exists, called the B.U.R (the Bureau of Unnatural Registry). The novel actually tends to elude to the politics at the time quite effectively and the involvement of the supernatural set in politics, which should be a ridiculous theory to begin with, is astoundingly normalised. The reader will even see a class protocol with the vampires and werewolves which is also quite intriguing. In fact after the first chapter, the reader ceases to question a realistic society. I do believe that this emphasises the sheer talent and courage of the author to take on such a radical take on the supernatural genre. Ms. Carriger incorporates the history of the time and it’s norms quite effectively.
As to the wonderful characters in the story, they are simply magnificent. From page one the reader encounters the impressive, charming character of Alexia Tarabotti. I do believe Alexia is quite the feminist. When society at the time dictated women to be altogether demure and prudish, Alexia counters this entirely. She’s brash and radical, a spinster at the tender age of twenty six, due to her Italian appearance and curvaceous figure. Alexia however is quite fed up with the norms society dictates. She possesses a brain, which at the time was considered quite a mortal sin for women. She has an altogether entertaining obsession for tea and cakes and these two things are of the utmost importance for this character throughout the story. Her interest in the latest and greatest science inventions earns her the despair of her mother, Mrs Loontwill (for she remarried after Alexia’s father’s death) who worries that her eldest daughter’s anarchistic behaviour will damage the future prospects of her younger sisters. What her mother does not seem to realise, as she is a complete and utter ninny, is that her daughter is anything but normal, she is not exactly human either. Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural, a soul sucker, with the ability to turn any kind of supernatural creature back to their human form. Alexia inherited this astonishing gift from her late Italian father, a gift her mother, half sisters and step-father have no knowledge of. Of course with characteristics such as these, is it any wonder that Alexia Tarabotti finds herself in the most ridiculous yet dangerous positions.
It is at this point in the novel the reader meets the intimidating and dashing Lord Conall Maccon, the Earl of Woolsey, the alpha werewolf of the London pack and also a member of the B.U.R. Lord Maccon and Alexia did not get off to a good start, and at the beginning of the novel, she continues to frustrate him with her incessant ability of involving herself in matters she should not. Of course it is obvious to the reader that Lord Maccon is to become the love interest for Alexia, the two are too stubborn to recognise this however. Lord Maccon is over two hundred years old, although a werewolf and Scottish to boot (gasp), despite all this, he is considered quite a catch in this London society. The author quite regularly describes his physique in the tall dark and handsome category, one must admit that his animal magnetism does wonders for his character. His arguments with Alexia are thoroughly entertaining and Alexia, even though she has no werewolf qualities at all, is a force to be reckoned with.
One cannot write a review on this novel without mentioning the wide range of other colourful, charming character that permeate the pages of the book. From the gallant, wise Professor Lyall, who is Maccon’s beta and his advisor to the loud, eccentric, flamboyant and quirky vampire friend of Alexia’s called Lord Akeldama. Lord Akeldama is a rove vampire, meaning he does not wish to be part of the local hive and instead lives alone with a dapper group of drones. Lord Akeldama is an old friend of Alexia, and takes great pleasure from her preternatural abilities when most supernaturals view them with terror, as with one touch she can render them helpless. Quirky seems to be a trait that Ms. Tarabotti searches for in her friends as we also meet the hilarious character of Ivy Hisselpenny, a dear friend of Alexia’s who is not in the same social standing but is Alexia’s confidante in all things ridiculous. Ivy is also quite notable for her vast array of wacky hats which are anything but the norm and the bane of Alexia’s existence. Another important character to note is that of Alexia’s butler, Mr. Floote. A butler the Loontwills inherited from Alexia’s father. Floote is always on hand to aide Alexia in whatever way he can, and seems to have a mysterious past with Alexia’s father which isn’t really properly developed in this book but will be mentioned in the books to follow in the series. He is altogether reminiscent to Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey, he is aware of everything that goes on and knows when his presence is required. It is clear he has a soft spot for Alexia also in a fatherly manner. Although he rarely speaks in the book his presence is pivotal.
This novel encapsulates everything a girl could want in a supernatural novel. It has a love story that will stand the test of time, an array of magical and colourful characters (supernatural and human alike), a great historical background and a wide range of entertaining scenarios that will leave the reader gasping for air following a serious bout of the giggles. The villains in the story, take the form of a group of scientists and activists who wish to perform tests on the supernatural set so as to eradicate them. It is a tale of utter brilliance and I do personally feel that one is losing out if you have not read this novel. For the characters of Alexia and Maccon are the heartbeat of the story and portray a love story that supplies endless flirtation and arguments that will leave any reader amused.
I do not wish to delve any deeper into the plot for fear of ruining it for future readers, but I must implore any avid readers of the supernatural genre to pick up a copy as soon as possible, for this is one story you do not want to miss. It is the ultimate holiday read or something to curl up beside the fire with a cup of tea. It is a light hearted tale and does not require much from the reader itself. Gail Carriger is perhaps one of my favourite authors for this reason, when one is faced with books that require a lot of time and concentration, Ms. Carriger offers instead, a novel that has oodles of laughs without the need to invest too much.
As always, I look forward forward to your comments and opinions.
The Avid Reader 🙂