“Soulless” by Gail Carriger is the first book in the “Parasol Protectorate” series. “Soulless” begins with the introduction of Miss Alexia Tarabotti and the Steampunk world she inhabits. We find the typical Steampunk elements: dirigibles, steam powered technology, top hats, Victorian fashion and manners, vampires, werewolves, and of course, parasols. Carriger has added her own twist on these by integrating the typical in an atypical fashion. The vampires and werewolves have incorporated into London society with their own sub-cultures which guide the story in new directions that keep the reader’s interest.
The characters in this story fall into three categories – intelligent with a sharp wit and tongue to match, intelligent with two-dimensional personalities, and ignorant with downright boorish personalities. Fortunately, our heroine in Soulless, and indeed, the majority of the characters she interacts with, fall into the first category while her family and best friend fall into the third. It is a bit obvious that these tertiary character serve to enhance the reader’s perception of Miss Tarabotti’s intelligence and wit, but they do so in an entertaining manner, sure to consistently bring a smile.
Entrusting the tale to the the intelligent and witty has provided a narrative that is fast paced with barb laced dialogue, and overall a fun story. Miss Tarabotti stands out in her Victorian world in more ways than one. She is tall, headstrong, and half Italian. Amidst these qualities, one would not expect to see a hint of naivete, but when it comes to matters of the heart, Miss Tarabotti displays her naivete in quite a typical manner, but it only serves to endear her to the reader even more.
Such a strong character as Miss Tarabotti must have a counter balance to keep her from dominating the story. This counter balance comes in the form of Lord Conall Maccon, the lead investigator for the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, the fourth earl of Woolsey, and the leader of the London werewolf pack. Not only does Lord Maccon occasionally keep the headstrong heroine in check, but he does so elegantly despite the romantic tension between the two. A hint of past official encounters between them intrigues the reader from the first chapter and continual references to those past experiences engages the reader’s curiosity.
Finally, “Soulless” is an entertaining page turner which introduces interesting characters and explores a rich fantasy/horror world which leaves the reader eager for more. Carriger’s next foray into the world of the Parasol Protectorate is “Changeless.” I give it 4 Scotland flags!