Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

I seem to be having book blogging block lately (and replying to comments block, sorry about that, I’ll try to amend my ways soon!), but I’ve just finished an absolutely fantastic fun book, so I must mention it immediately.

It’s Soulless by Gail Carriger and a more wonderful blend of fantasy, romance, Victorian historical, comedy and steampunk I’ve ever come across. (And with a werewolf romance angle! Ever since seeing Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman, let’s just say I’m not on team vampire, shall we…) In anΒ  interview with the author at the back of the book, she says her influences are “Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, Gerald Durrell, a tea obsessed expatriate British mum, years of historical study, and a lifetime of BBC costume dramas…” Sigh. Bingo. I love how absolutely impudent the whole book is and since I like a little sci-fi, a little fantasy, a lot of Victoriana, a lot of good jokes and have been wanting to find some good romance to read, this was utterly perfect, I finished it since coming home from work this afternoon!

So rather than explaining further, I will simply give you the opening (the first chapter being entitled ‘In Which Parasols Prove Useful’):

Miss Alexia Tarabotti was not enjoying her evening. Private balls were never more than middling amusements for spinsters, and Miss Tarabotti was not the kind of spinster who could garner even that much pleasure from the event. To put the pudding in the puff: she had retreated to the library, her favorite sanctuary in any house, only to happen upon an unexpected vampire.

She glared at the vampire.

For his part, the vampire seemed to feel that their encounter had improved his ball experience immeasurably. For there she sat, without escort, in a low-necked ball gown.

In this particular case, what he did not know could hurt him. For Miss Alexia had been born without a soul, which, as any decent vampire of good blooding knew, made her a lady to avoid most assiduously.

Yet he moved toward her, darkly shimmering out of the library shadows with feeding fangs ready. However, the moment he touched Miss Tarabotti, he was suddenly no longer darkly doing anything at all. He was simply standing there, the faint sounds of a string quartet in the background as he foolishly fished about with his tongue for fangs unaccountably mislaid.

Miss Tarabotti was not in the least surprised; soullessness always neutralized supernatural abilities. She issued the vampire a very dour look. Certainly, most daylight folk wouldn’t peg her as anything less than a standard English prig, but had this man not even bothered to read the vampire’s official abnormality roster for London and its greater environs?

The vampire recovered his equanimity quickly enough. He reared away from Alexia, knocking over a nearby tea trolley. Physical contact broken, his fangs reappeared. Clearly not the sharpest of prongs, he then darted forward from the neck like a serpent, diving in for another chomp.

“I say!” said Alexia to the vampire. “We have not even been introduced!”

…So Alexia, who abhorred violence, was forced to grab the miscreant by his nostrils, a delicate and therefore painful area, and shove him away. He stumbled over the fallen tea trolley, lost his balance in a manner astonishingly graceless for a vampire, and fell to the floor. He landed right on top of a plate of treacle tart.

Miss Tarabotti was most distressed by this. She was particularly fond of treacle tart and had been looking forward to consuming that precise plateful. She picked up her parasol. It was terribly tasteless for her to be carrying a parasol at an evening ball, but Miss Tarabotti rarely went anywhere without it. It was a style entirely of her own devising: a black frilly confection with purple satin pansies sewn about, brass hardware, and buckshot in its silver tip.

She whacked the vampire right on top of the head with it as he tried to extract himself from his newly intimate relations with the tea trolley. The buckshot gave the brass parasol just enough heft to make a deliciously satisfying thunk.

“Manners!” instructed Miss Tarabotti.

There’s two more books in the series (Changeless and Blameless), so I’ll be acquiring them in short order.

Other than that, I’m hoping to enjoy the rest of my summer, even though my husband’s stomach surgery has been set for August 23 and so I will probably continue to be here less often. I’ve cut back on the number of book blogs I follow, sadly, just to be able to keep up with everything, but I am still reading my favourites, even if not commenting as often. I think also in general, I’m going to try to stick to shorter reviews. I used to love writing university essays, analyzing a piece of literature in depth, able to discuss all the spoilers of a book as just another part of the art of it, but somehow reviews that are supposed to sell the thing without being able to discuss the true meat of what happens in the book… it rankles, just a little. I want to discuss all of it, not just the enticing bits to hook a reader in! Some of you do write wonderfully long reviews that analyze literature beautifully without giving the plot away, but with everything overwhelming just now, shorter is better.

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13 thoughts on “Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

  1. Claire (The Captive Reader) says:

    Okay, I can confidently say that this is a book I would have never heard of if you hadn’t reviewed it. Generally I run in the opposite direction of all things steampunk-, werewolf- or vampire-related, but I’m rather intrigued by this. I love that it’s “a novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols”. That is excellent.

    I’m having trouble getting out any reviews these days, never mind the length, but I do vary between the long and the short. I want to write long, insightful reviews (a la Rachel) but it rarely works out that way. Still, regardless of length, it’s always wonderful to post something new and get back into a dialogue with other bloggers!

    • Carolyn says:

      I don’t generally read romances either, but this one is quite tongue in cheek about all of it and really fun.

      Yes, Rachel is my model of the long insightful review as well!

      (We should plan our August get together soon, maybe I’ll email you.)

  2. Shannon says:

    I’ve been struggling to finish books lately – even in this genre! It makes me feel even more unsettled.

    But I did enjoy this one (my review here, and the second book Changeless – which ended with a great lead-up to the third book, can’t wait!

    p.s. I’ve got an award for you, stop by and see!

    • Carolyn says:

      Oh, I know. Usually I start to fade a bit with reading in the second half of the year (sometimes I pick up a few that I didn’t finish earlier in the year, that way it still counts), this was a fun read to get out of a mini-slump.

      And thanks again for the award. πŸ™‚

    • Carolyn says:

      Yes, I haven’t read the sequels yet but I’m looking forward to them. It’s rare to find a ‘fluff’ book that’s so clever. And thanks for coming by!

  3. Kika says:

    Oh I LOVE this series! Soulless is such a lovely witty, funny, all round awesome read πŸ™‚ sorry to hear about your husbands surgery :/ Hope all goes well!

  4. Christina says:

    Glad you enjoyed this! πŸ™‚ I’m looking forward to reading Changeless and Blameless, and I think there may be one or two more books coming out in 2011!

  5. Nymeth says:

    It’s funny how this didn’t make it onto my radar for the longest time even though it’s been all over the blogosphere – I guess I wrongly assume it’d be too silly, but you and a few other bloggers have made me reconsider. It sounds like an absolute delight!

    • Carolyn says:

      It definitely is and I think you would enjoy it. It’s not sentimental and doesn’t take itself too seriously and the humour’s quite tongue in cheek. Very fun!

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