Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. 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 then the appalling Lord Maccon (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 responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Or will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
Now that was just pure unadulterated fun. Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
Soulless is the first of three (currently) books featuring the stroppy, intimidating and really rather awesome (in the correct sense of the word) heroine Alexia Tarrabotti.
Alexia exists in a post-supernatural steampunk London filled with dirigibles, vampires and werewolves. Alexia herself is a preternatural being able to utterly cancel out supernatural abilities when in physical contact.
Having been quite rudely attacked by an unknown and lisping vampire whilst attending a soiree Alexia becomes embroiled in a plot to do all manner of beastly things to the supernatural elements within polite and refined Victorian society.
The book itself is as much a romantic romp as an adventure story. A fun mix of comedy of manners with swashbuckling daring-do. The plot of the book is solid if a bit thin but that's not where the charm lies. The real strength of Soulless is the central characters and the way they interact. Carriger has a lightness of touch and a deft sense of her protagonists that makes them utterly alive on the page. Alexia is deliciously modern but wrapped so strongly in the expectations and confines of her time that she is in constant battle to live her life the way she rightfully thinks it needs to be lived. Lord Maccon, the werewolf pack leader, government representative and hulking love-interest is a strong and unintentionally (on his part) comedic element whose emerging infatuation with this firebrand of a woman is driving him to rampant distraction and the oh so charismatic Lord Akeldama, well, he's just joy personified. I'd read volumes about him alone, think Mark Gatiss' Lucifer Box but with pronounced canines.
My favourite thing about this book though - it's a small thing in real terms but huge thing for me - is that this book contains, what I like to call, an ending, as opposed to just ending. Too often does a book get through the big set piece climactic battle / confrontation / expose only to then immediately fizzle out in a mad dash for the last page. Not here though as Carriger slowly wraps things up and allows us the luxury of seeing the aftermath of events (I almost cried along with Lord Akeldama as his wish came true) in much the same manner as we see their development.
I do think though that the cover blurb associating Carriger with Austen and Wodehouse is both lazy and detrimental making her sound anachronistic. Her prose is tight, energetic and very modern (as is her heroine) and, it must be said, it reminds me somewhat (although this is probably due mostly to my unfamiliarity with this specific end of the genre market and my perceived similarities between the principal characters) of Laurell K. Hamilton but without the vaguely creepy gun fetishism that always seemed to pervade that writers work.
On the shelf behind me I have the next two volumes of Alexia Tarrabotti The Parasol Protectorate novels and I am very much looking forward to getting to grips with them.