Soulless (Parasol Protectorate Book I) – Gail Carriger

I’m going through a bit of a Steampunk phase, having very recently devoured all available ‘Ministry of Peculiar Occurences‘ Novels by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris in just over a single week (review on those forthcoming). Soulless reads quite similarly to that series, right down the chapter titles.

This story begins, with our heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, taking repast in the Library of a prominent Duke’s house. Alone, because being a half Italian spinster is hard. And, it’s hard to dance at a Ball with no food. He is thus horrified when she is attacked by a poorly dressed Vampire, exhibiting absolutely no social decorum whatsoever. She promptly kills the rogue with her parasol, and feigns unconsciousness when her shenanigans are discovered by a group of dandies who had thwarted her escape.

“With a resigned shrug, she screamed and collapsed into a faint. She stayed resolutely fainted, despite the liberal application of smelling salts, which made her eyes water most tremendously, a cramp in the back of one knee, and the fact that her new ball gown was getting most awfully wrinkled.”

Enter Lord Connall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey, Scottish Werewolf and active member of BUR, Queen Victoria‘s own Bureau of Unnatural Registry, set up to keep an eye on Vampires and Werewolves, who by decree of Henry VIII way back when, are a working part of British society.

After Alexia’s attack we get a better understanding the backstory. Alexia is, as I mentioned, Soulless, and classified as Preternatural, as opposed to the Supernatural Vamps and Weres. As Soulless, she has the ability, via touch, to effectively nullify the ‘Super’ in Supernatural. I have some experience with ‘Nulls‘ as they are often called in this paranormal type genre – magical black holes – though, none have had a protagonist who routinely beats people with her parasol whilst canoodling with the very man she once made fall on a hedgehog, all over London. Point, Gail Carriger.

“Alexia suspected Lord Maccon’s handling was a tad more than was strictly called for under the circumstances, but she secretly enjoyed the sensation. After all, how often did a spinster of her shelf life get manhandled by an earl of Lord Maccon’s peerage? She had better take advantage of the situation.”

Alexia, somewhat on purpose, somewhat by chance, becomes involved in an investigation as to the whereabouts of several missing, lone (without a ‘Pack’ or ‘Hive’) Weres and Vamps, and the appearance of several Vampires with no apparent Hive. Of course, being Steampunk, there are of course bad guys plotting against the establishment and generally causing mayhem with the help of various whirligigs and infernal contraptions.

“Goodness gracious me,’ exclaimed Alexia, ‘what are you wearing? It looks like the unfortunate progeny of an illicit union between a pair of binoculars and some opera glasses. What on earth are they called, binocticals, spectoculars?”

This was a quick, fun read for me, exactly the type of book I need after reading a few too many heavy Fantasy novels in a row. Or Kate Daniels. The Kate Daniels’ series has the ability to ruin me for other books for weeks after the release of a new story.

I’ll get to the nitpicking first, by about 30%, I was bored of Alexia/everyone, talking about her brown skin and big nose.

“My father,” she admitted, “was of Italian extraction. Unfortunately, not an affliction that can be cured.” She paused. “Though he did die.”

Other than that though, there was insta-love, but this was one of the rare occasions that it didn’t bother me overmuch. And, as for the telling of an alternate history, I found it fair. I knew enough about the role of the BUR and the laws governing supernaturals in Victorian England, through the story, to easily keep up.

3 star read. I’m planning to continue this series.

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