Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Steampunk

Series: Book 1 of Parasol Protectorate

Publisher: Orbit

Date of Publication: October 1, 2009

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

A total impulse read, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I picked this up. I knew next to nothing about the characters or the story because believe it or not, I hadn’t even stopped to read the synopsis or description (which, when you’re a bibliophile, is like totally living life on the edge, I tell ya!)

But perhaps I’m overplaying my daredevilry. The fact is, it’s not like this Parasol Protectorate series hadn’t been on my radar at all, because I see it everywhere, from people reading it on the bus to copies at the checkout racks at supermarkets. So I had a pretty good idea that these books were wildly popular, and I’ll admit I’ve always been curious, especially ever since stumbling upon a description of it as a “paranormal comedy of manners”. That definitely conformed to my impressions of it after seeing that charming cover.

So, discovering that it was a novel about werewolves, vampires and other such uncanny creatures was a real treat for me, as was finding out about the Victorian steampunk setting. After all, this is territory I’m familiar and happy with, and the main character Alexia Tarabotti’s life as a “soulless” or “preternatural” sounded new and interesting enough for this book to be right up my alley.

As someone with her unique power, Alexia is able to negate the effects of supernatural beings simply by touching them, thus turning creatures like vampires and werewolves back into their human forms. I have to say I was just in love with this idea! In addition, the book also floated a really neat theory to explain the link between preternaturals and supernatural creatures, utilizing a concept that involves opposing forces and counterbalances. I know I’ve said this a bunch of times before, but I always enjoy seeing novel ideas like this in the paranormal fantasy genre.

In the book’s intro, Alexia’s condition as a preternatural was what allowed her to survive an attack by a rogue vampire. In her subsequent investigation into this incident with the werewolf Lord Maccon, they uncover cases of other rogues as well as a disturbing number of missing supernaturals, so now I’m getting really excited, seeing that an element of mystery is in this story line as well. All was going great…until I got to the romance.

Admittedly, here’s where my enthusiasm began to wane. Now that I’m finished the book, I would definitely classify Soulless as a paranormal romance more than anything. While I have nothing against that particular genre, I still must confess that a book tends to lose me when the relationship drama begins eclipsing everything else in the plot and becomes the main focus. And so when Alexia and Lord Maccon actually started making out and rounding second base on the dirty floor of a dank dark cell while they were being imprisoned by a gang of fanatical torturers, I kinda knew we’d reached my breaking point.

Pages upon pages describing the etiquette of courtship and totally inappropriate moments to get amorous notwithstanding, this was still a very good book. I’m open to the possibility of picking up the next book in the series if I’m ever struck by the mood to read a fun paranormal romance, especially now that I know what to expect!

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