In early November, Doyle and I went on a Mediterranean cruise, from Barcelona to the West coast of Italy, and the Southern coast of France. It was lovely, aside from the monstrous jetlag. I took pictures of Chateu d'If, and am trying to figure out how to put words on a 100x100 icon such that they're legible.
The flights, and indeed, cruising at night, presented me with an excellent opportunity to read, which I had not indulged in for some months prior. The PW best books list just came out (and the ensuing brou-ha-ha brought it to my attention), and I went to look at rosefox
's recs on that list. And high up on the Mass Market list was a book called Soulless
, by Gail Carriger (who, I have just learned, can be found at gailcarriger
Our heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, is a 25-year-old bluestocking, firmly on the shelf, in Victorian society. Her father having died some years before has left her with a troublesome legacy - she's half Italian, and has no soul. Different people can have varying amounts of soul in this universe, and the ones with too much are eligible to become vampires, werewolves, or ghosts - the supernatural. Alexia, like her father before her, has the opposite problem - she is a preternatural, and her very touch negates the powers of the supernatural creatures. Having no husband and very little tolerance for her family, Alexia desires to be some use to the Empire by joining the department that oversees supernatural and preternatural affairs. Unfortunately, as an unmarried lady of quality, this request is denied.
Instead, she accidentally kills a vampire with her parasol at a dinner party and is thrust, with no reluctance on her part, into supernatural affairs. Aiding her for their own reasons are Lord Conall Maccon, the Scottish werewolf who arrived nearly out of nowhere to become the Alpha of the London (and therefore England's) werewolves, and Lord Akeldama, a gay-as-a-pride-parade best friend of a vampire with spies in every corner. (As an aside, I absolutely love
Akeldama's minions, when we finally meet them.) Lord Maccon is this series' derivation of the Mr. Darcy/Benedict archetype, a role he handles quite well, though with much less restraint than either of the others. Alexia does a passable turn as Eliza Bennett/Beatrice with a touch of the Anne Elliot and Miss Marple to her, which makes for great reading and great fun.
In addition to the supernatural elements, Carriger adds steampunk - flying dirigibles and mad scientists. It is, in some ways, a book in the tradition of Girl Genius
, but closer to our world. As an aside, I also like Carriger's presentation of what the US is like in a world with both Pilgrims and supernaturals.
That's not to say the book is perfect. There are a few things I found inconsistent from start to finish, and it definitely felt like a first novel (which it was, as far as I'm aware). I am looking forward to reading the next two - Changeless
, which will be out in March, and Blameless
, which will be out in September.