Unfortunately, the perennially disapproving Lord Maccon arrives on the scene ( he’s never forgiven her for the hedgehog incident), and Alexia has some explaining to do. Who was the poorly behaved and badly dressed vampire? Where did he come from and what caused him to attack Alexia? And it’s not only the werewolves who need some answers, because the vampire queen soon requests an audience from Alexia as well.
As Alexia attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding her attack at the ball, she repeatedly finds herself coming head-to-head with Lord Maccon, not an entirely unpleasant experience. And the Earl suddenly can’t seem to stop himself from thinking about the irritating and headstrong Ms. Tarabotti, who always seems to be in the center of every commotion. It doesn’t help that Lord Maccon’s protective instincts have been particularly strong lately as it becomes apparent that someone is trying to kidnap Alexi, but Alexi herself refuses to be protected.
I had recently decided that I've had enough of vampire and werewolf themed books, most of which seem to just recycle the same ideas as every other previously published book in the genre. I didn’t have much expectations for Soulless and ended up pleasantly surprised with how much I actually enjoyed this book.
To begin with, the book takes place in Victorian London and is told in a style similar to that of a historical romance, which immediately grabbed my interest (historical romances are my secret and guilty pleasure). And then the ideas that Carriger introduces, of the soul and it’s influence on ones ability to become paranormal, are unique and intriguing. As someone who does not possess a soul, Alexia is able to neutralize any paranormal creature, turning them into a regular human for the amount of time that she in physical contact with them. I thought this was a really interesting concept.
In addition, Carriger assumes that had vampires been in existence in Victorian times, then the technology would have been much more advanced. And so Soulless includes inventions such as steam powered airships and floating carriages, lending the book some exotic steampunk flavor.
There were also some really wonderful characters here. I loved Alexia; a strong and intelligent woman who is not afraid of being herself, which is often reflected by her opinionated ideas, healthy appetite and bravery in defending herself against adversaries with her trusty parasol. Alexia’s friend Ivy is another great character, with her penchant for wearing ridiculous hats and her understanding with Alexi to agree to disagree. Their humorous banter was particularly enjoyable.
- “Ivy, my dear,” said Miss Tarabotti as her friend bustled up, “how marvelous of you to find time to walk at such short notice! What a hideous bonnet. I do hope you did not pay too much for it.”
“Alexia! How perfectly horrid of you to criticize my hat. Why should I not be able to walk this morning? You know I never have anything better to do on Thursdays. Thursdays are so tiresome, don't you find?” replied Miss Hisselpenny."
Unfortunately I thought that Lord Maccon’s character seemed a little flat and generic, lacking the depth and originality of the other characters. I was also a little confused as to what exactly the soul is, in Soulless. Is the soul just a measure of a person’s ability to become immortal or is it more similar to a soul, as we understand it? For someone without a soul, an ailment that sounds rather shocking, Alexia appeared to be no different then other humans, aside from her unusual boldness. This lack of a clear explanation bothered me.
And one final criticism that I had is that some of the more “adult” scenes between Alexia and Lord Maccon seemed to take place at strangely inappropriate times which made them rather unbelievable. I can’t say more without giving away too much of the plot but while reading one such scene I was thinking to myself in irritation “come on, is that really what you are thinking about at a time like this?”
Otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed Soulless as a delightful, lighthearted read and I highly recommend it to readers of both fantasy and romance who are looking for some bookish fun.
For some Soulless fun, visit Gail Carriger's website where she talks about her books and about different aspects of steampunk, of which she seems to have a particular interest.
And at the publisher's website for Soulless you can dress up a Victorian doll in period clothing, which is actually quite challenging. It's amazine how many layers they had to wear back then.