Book Reviews

Book Review: Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger

Book Blurb:

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?

Published October 2009 by Orbit.

My Review:

I freaking loved this book. The writing, the story, the characters–gah, I was sucked in so completely that I came out the other end googling where I could buy my own custom made parasol.

Everything about this book worked together perfectly. But if I had to narrow down my list of praises to two, I’m going with the narrative voice and the character of Alexia Tarabotti.

From page one, the author’s distinct voice is readily apparent. Carriger writers as if she is a Victorian writer. And believe me, having spent six years studying Victorian literature, I can recognize it faster than a Texan recognizes a first down during football season. Her elevated language, sentence structure, and word usage all come together to paint the scene outside of the actual story itself. It’s a beautiful example of the form working together with the story to completely captivate the audience, and Carriger does it marvelously. It’s such a clever inclusion but one that I think makes this book stand out from your average supernatural/Victorian novels.

I loved the main character about as much as I loved Carriger’s writing style. Alexia was a study in contradictions, in my opinion, but set up in such a way that felt so remarkably human. She’s powerful and vulnerable, self-assured but lacks self-confidence, charming and, well, un-charming all at once. I especially loved how her flaws presented themselves, and how they were formed by the society she lives in. She’s a spinster, believing her self-worth is tied to her status in this supernatural English society, and she’s readily accepted her lack of worth accordingly. Yet that only seems to empower her, granting her the courage to act as she sees fit to solve the mysteries plaguing this other London. Her flaw is her strength is her flaw and I find that so wonderfully complex in how they feed into each other.

I’ve giving this book five out of five stars. It does precisely what it sets out to do–entertain–but it does so much more than that. I came away from the novel with a reinvigorated sense of self-esteem and a new role model to live up to, which is, far and away, more than some books leave me feeling. This is a book I will gladly return to again and again.

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