Review: Souless by Gail Carriger

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How did I get it: The library.

Why did I get it: I have checked this poor book out at least 4 times from two libraries, and couldn’t even finish the first few chapters because I was never in the mood for its quirky atmosphere. I’ve felt horrible about this for months now. It’s true that there are some books a person needs to abandon forever. This book is not one of those. After awhile, I finally got in the right frame of mind for this book, and I’m glad I did.

How would I rate it: 4 stars out of 5.

My Summary: Alexia Tarabotti has a great many burdens. The first is the fact that she’s souless and touching any supernatural being will turn them mortal. The second is she’s a spinster with an Italian father of ill repute. The third is she’s far too loud-spoken and opinonated for Victorian society. After being attacked by a vampire and killing him with a parasol, she finds herself constantly at odds dealing with Lord Maccon, the Alpha werewolf sent to investigate the one she’s killed along with many other vampires who have disappeared.

My Review: Overall the book was very funny, clever, and entertaining, but what kept Soulless from achieving 5 stars was that it took me a dog’s age to finish this book. I cringed quite a bit thanks to the overly quirky protagonist. Nothing seems to make me less interested in a book than authors who cannot trust their readers to like their characters.

Now don’t get me wrong. Alexia may have grated on my nerves from time to time, but I did like her and her preturnatural abilities which made her strange but not a vampire, werewolf, or something else. I felt like someone involved in publishing this book was convinced her readers wouldn’t like her and so Carriger had to constantly make her more feisty and quirky than necessary. 

As a result, aspects of Alexia and her relationship with most characters, particularly Lord Maccon, seemed forced. I felt that just about everyone liked her because they were expected to and not because they genuinely did. On top of that, she was given a very ridiculous family straight out of Disney’s Cinderella to induce sympathy in the reader. It did work to some degree, of course, but it also seemed a bit out of left field and unnecessarily off-beat. I can only hope that they are going to be severely neglected or never mentioned again in the rest of the series. 

Along similar lines, and a romantic subplot that was very, very rushed seeing as Soulless is by no means a single book but the beginning of a series. Again I wonder if this was added in later as some means of generating more interest from female readers. Either way, I think this subplot did Alexia and Lord Maccon a great disservice in not letting them gravitate towards one another over time and in a more natural way. In fact, I couldn’t quite understand how they even liked one another and disliked how it boiled down to another case of two people liking each other but treating one another horribly for years on end only to realize it was love. I would have much preferred Maccon ending up as an antagonist, which would have added to the novel and not taken away from it.

So what, you might be asking, made me give this book 4 stars?

Well, first of all, Alexia is one of the least annoying female protagonists I’ve dealt with lately. At least she normal-looking and her problems were interesting running the gammit from practical to absurd. She also was concerned about the feelings of one man not 2 or 20, and as irritating as some of her conclusions were, she was a 26 year old spinster, not a 40 year old who ought to know better.

I also liked all of the minor characters, especially Professor Lyall and Lord Akeldama. Actually, it’s safe to say I loved Professor Lyall and Lord Akeldama. If Carriger ever decides to write spin-off novels of their separate adventures or them teaming up to fight crime in some hilarious fashion, I want to be first in line to read and buy them.

To the author and the book’s credit, there is also a lot of originality and a lot of whimsy at work in Soulless. Carriger has a good sense of humor and the world itself made for good reading. And the world was truly a welcome breath of fresh air in that respect. The concept of vampires having hives and drones with queen vampires sort of overseeing everything was really cool. I appreciated the vampires being an acquired taste and not always something that a person aspired to. The idea of there being more males because the ruling vampires felt threatened by other females was a nice touch.

I also like that in the werewolf society, female werewolves are on equal footing with males particularly in regards to rites of courtship. I also like that while it is never directly discussed, the sexual orientation of various characters never becomes an issue. It’s funny that a Victorian steampunk novel is more forward thinking than a lot of modern Urban Fantasy novels out there, but it’s also very nice.

In conclusion, I would definitely suggest this book to others with a word of caution about the romantic subplot. I am decidedly eager to start Blameless, Changeless, and Heartless once it finally comes out in June. 

If you’ve already read the series or have just started doing so, be sure to also check out Gail Carriger’s website which has a lot of extra book-related goodies.

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About April

I'm a librarian, reader, and writer whose main goal in life is to be able to swim in books the way Scrooge McDuck swims in money. Although my reading choices will always be wildly eclectic and I never plan on leaving any genre unexplored, my favorite reads tend to be Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Gay Romance, or Historical Fiction. You can e-mail me at inspector[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com.
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