Soulless is steampunk meets Frankenstein & Holmes

Soulless (Book 1 in The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger; published by Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, New York, 2009; 357 pages.

Poor spinster; she is too Italian, too curvaceous, and too outspoken for Victorian England’s tastes.  Yet somehow Alexia Tarabotti survives in her step family and in society.  With her custom-made parasol (silver tipped, loaded with buckshot), she finds herself in the middle of quite a mystery: why are so many vampires and werewolves disappearing?  This enlightened age, Victorian though it may be, has incorporated ghosts, vampires and werewolves into polite society.  Her Majesty includes a vampire and a werewolf as trusted advisors.  So where does a preternatural like Miss Tarabotti fit into this picture?  Will she solve the mystery, and more importantly, will she find love and acceptance in this world?

Soulless reads like Sherlock Holmes meets Frankenstein, but with a sharp wit and wicked sense of humor.  I guess I would categorize it as steampunk: supernatural forces at play during the Victorian rise of scientific discovery.  I truly couldn’t put the book down as all of the elements worked so well together.  My main criticism is that the point of view was frequently confusing; most of the time, a break in the chapter alerted readers to a shift of perspective, but not always and not always seamlessly.

For anyone, but older teens especially, who is sick of Glampire fiction, this book will provide a welcome respite.  Sit in your most comfortable armchair, sip a cup of tea, and enjoy a heroine who is an equal in almost every way to her romantic interest!  Perhaps these were reasons Soulless made YALSA’s Alex Awards list for 2010.

4P     3Q     Grade Level: 10+

Cover Art: The misty London background with Alexia and her parasol might hint at the story inside, but not well.  The metallic, hot pink title adds a hint that this may well be a steampunk story.  I think teens are going to have to be looking for this book; I found it in the adult sci-fi section at my local library.

From Reading List: Alex Awards, 2010


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