Thursday, October 20, 2016

#48 [2016/CBR8] "Soulless" by Gail Carriger

Werewolves and vampires generally don't do much for me, so I don't pick up paranormal romances on a whim. However, my book club chose Soulless (2014) by Gail Carriger, and they said it was fun. It also happens to be a steampunk comedy of manners, so I found that there was a lot more to it than Twilight and the Charlaine Harris books I've read.

I had a good time reading this book. The tone is fun, the writing is fun, and I loved all the names of the characters. There were a number of lines that had me smiling or laughing, and Alexia's preoccupation with clothing was entertaining.

The book takes place in 19th-century London in an alternate history. In this world, supernatural characters have been, for the most part, accepted and incorporated into society in England. Werewolves, vampires, and ghosts interact with regular people and work in the government.

Alexia Tarabotti, our heroine, is the only "soulless" woman in Britain, The general public is not even aware of the existence of the soulless. Alexi lives with her mother, stepfather, and two stepsisters. Because Alexi is half Italian, and does not conform to the current standards of beauty in England, she's been "put on the shelf" by her mother. Being seen as an old maid, as well as not caring what others think of her, allow Alexi a remarkable amount of freedom in a time and place that is otherwise be pretty confining for young, unmarried women.

The book begins with Alexia hiding out in a library at a ball. She left the merriment in search of food, and has rather rudely asked the servants for tea when she is interrupted by a vampire. The greatest advantage of being soulless is that as soon as she touches a supernatural creature, that creature loses his powers. After accidentally killing the vampire, she fakes a faint to avoid answering any questions from intruding party goers. And that's when Lord Conall Maccon, the Earl of Woolsey, alpha werewolf of the London wolf pack, and a high-ranking official of the BUR shows up to take control of the situation. The two obviously have a history and their banter is entertaining.

Many odd things are happening in the supernatural realm of London. A half-starved (and badly dressed) vampire attacked a woman at a ball. Lone vampires and werewolves are disappearing. And Alexia is being stalked by a scary wax-like man. As Alexia has become something of a target, Maccon takes it upon himself to protect her. It's obvious that two such strong-willed and argumentative people were meant for each other, and the more time they spend together, the more obvious it is.

Alexia Tarabotti was a fun protagonist. In many ways she reminded me of Amelia Peabody from Elizabeth Banks' books. Alexia is smart, independent, and strong-willed. She is also not afraid of exploring her sexuality..."but in the interest of scientific curiosity, she shifted her lower body away from him a handbreadth and peeked downward." (297)

I definitely enjoyed reading this book. The fun writing and the romance kept it going and easy to read. There may have not been much to the mystery or some of the other characters, but original and entertaining was more than enough for me. I will most likely get into the rest of the series, although I'm a little nervous that they will not live up to this first book.

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