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? 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?
WHAT I LOVED
*Victorian London (with a twist)
The world that Carriger creates in her Parasol Protectorate series is a wonderful mix of genres. Readers get to experience historical romance (Victorian England, tea, high society), paranormal (vampires, werewolves, ghosts), and steampunk (dirigibles and steam-powered torture devices). These different styles are mixed together effortlessly and explained in such a matter-of-fact way that readers immediately buy into the absurdness of society. Plus it is fun to see how werewolves and vampires have been integrated London society.
Miss Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster with an Italian heritage and no soul. She is considered a pretenatural (See #8). Alexia is one of my favorite heroines ever with her sense of humor, affinity for the absurd, tendency to speak her mind, and, of course, her trusty, pointy parasol. Throughout the book, Alexia finds herself in a variety of unfortunate situations, but always approaches them with logic and little fear. But, despite her obvious personal strengths, Alexia is not immune to some insecurities (particularly involving her appearance) which are enhanced her treatment from her asinine family and society as a whole. The way that Carriger depicts the cliched British spinster with a twist is very original and extremely compelling.
Alexia's "nemesis" is Conall Maccon, a werewolf who is the alpha of the local pack as well as the head of BUR (law enforcement agency for the supernatural world). Conall, obviously, is originally from Scotland and is a fairly recent (in werewolf time) transport to England. Therefore, his social skills are not as refined as other gentleman though I found him rather yummy.
*Conall and Alexia's Courtship
Both Conall and Alexia are very unique characters so it should come as no surprise that their courtship is also unique. They have already been acquainted when the book begins and have established an irregular relationship. The tension surrounded them is obvious from the beginning and they seem to rub each other the wrong way every time they converse. This type of arguing could get repetitive if it were not obvious how much each of them cared for the other. I love it when two, strong-willed people circle around each other and ultimately realize that they are meant to be.
Carriger provides a wonderful cast of secondary characters that help enhance the romance between Alexia and Conall and give readers a view of this alternate world. My personal favorites were Lord Akeldama, Alexia's foppish vampire best friend who reminds me of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Professor Lyall, Conall's beta who seems to have a lot of secrets to uncover. I also loved Ivy Histlepenny and her outrageously ugly hats and Biffy, Lord Akeldama's boy toy. None of these characters overshadowed Alexia and Conall, but they provided a wonderful background and some very entertaining scenes.
*Sense of Humor
This entire book was hilarious to me even during the dramatic points. Carriger's voice is extremely sarcastic and reminds me of Jane Austen's observations on London society. The fact that I listened to the audio version of this book, in my opinion, enhanced the humor from hearing it read aloud. How can you not giggle when the characters are commenting on "hedgehog incidents" and killing vampires with hairpins?
*Emily Gray as Narrator
As mentioned above, I listened to the audiobook version of Soulless. Emily Gray is the narrator of this, and the others in the series, and I absolutely adored her performance. Her British accent is perfectly suited for Carriger's dry sense of humor and the way she portrayed the different characters seemed almost effortless. I was very impressed with her Scottish and American accents.
I enjoyed everything about this book and look forward to reading more of this series. After all, there is no way that Conall and Alexia could ever settle for a stoic, boring life. I can't wait to see more of this alternate world that Carriger has created with its wonderful mix of steampunk, historical, and paranormal.
**Miss Tarabotti was not one of life's milk-water misses--in fact, quite the opposite. Many a gentleman had likened his first meeting with her to downing a very strong cognac when one was expecting to imbibe fruit juice--that is to say, startling and apt to leave one with a distinct burning sensation.
**She would have colored gracefully with embarrassment had she not possessed the complexion of one of those "heathen Italians," as her mother said, who never colored, gracefully or otherwise. (Convincing her mother that Christianity had, to all intents and purposes, originated with the Italians, thus making them the exact opposite of heathen, was a waste of time and breath.)
**"What if I arrange to be around Lord Akeldama during the full moon?"
The earl looked daggers, "I am certain he would be extremely helpful in a fight. He could ruthlessly flatter all your attackers into abject submission."
The Parasol Protectorate
*Timeless [To Be Released 2012]
BOOK CHALLENGE ENTRY