Gail Carriger's Soulless starts with some great action. You can't help but be attracted to Alexia Tarabotti right from the start. To be in her twentieGail Carriger's Soulless starts with some great action. You can't help but be attracted to Alexia Tarabotti right from the start. To be in her twenties and already written off as a spinster is amusing to modern readers, but so very Victorian. Why she's still a spinster is where things get interesting. Alexia is a “soulless” – literally, she has no soul. In a Victorian England occupied by werewolves and vampires, as well as ordinary humans, this makes her quite the unique young (old) lady.
Gail Carriger carries off Steampunk with the best of the genre. Her interpretation of supernatural beings (vampires and werewolves) is well thought-out. There's serious backstory to her universe, not just men changing into animals or pale-skinned women biting necks. The notion of a “preter-natural” being, the soulless Alexia, complicates things for Lord Connall Maccon, head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registery (hey, this is England, there must be bureaucracy!), as she inserts herself into supernatural affairs. Lord Maccon's investigation of missing vampires gets an assist from Alexia, exposing Carriger's world while giving the reader an enjoyable adventure.
I came to Carriger's novels via an interesting route—The Steampunk Tarot. The deck caught my eye, and upon perusing the Major Arcana cards, I was struck by The Chariot. In a Steampunk universe, the chariot is artificially powered, and driven by a strong young woman. The companion book for the deck (well-written, by the way, for any deck) describes the woman, and essentially says she's a shout-out to Alexia. Mentioning Carriger by name as well, I figured this was a solid recommendation. I was right.
Alexia and her associates (some friends, social/political connections, some frenemies) become an informal group of “irregulars” known as the “Parasol Protectorate,” who continue their romp through London (and other cities in Europe) for four more novels. Entertaining plots with a well-developed backstory—my kind of fantasy story! ...more
I'm really enjoying this series. This book was along the lines of a "dark second movement," but it's clear (even if you didn't know there are more thaI'm really enjoying this series. This book was along the lines of a "dark second movement," but it's clear (even if you didn't know there are more than three books) that not everything can be resolved in a third novel. Martin's style makes you want to shout out at characters when they're being dumb and to cheer with them when they succeed.
I read this on my last trip to europe, back in March. The book offers great background on the Krasians encountered by The Warded Man in first book. BrI read this on my last trip to europe, back in March. The book offers great background on the Krasians encountered by The Warded Man in first book. Brett does well with a multiple POV presentation, and he's thought out both cultures well. ...more
Before I left for my trip to Stockholm, week before last, I put out a call for new SF/F author suggestions on Twitter, and a twiend said check out PetBefore I left for my trip to Stockholm, week before last, I put out a call for new SF/F author suggestions on Twitter, and a twiend said check out Peter V. Brett. I'm glad I did, because The Warded Man is a winner.
Brett's universe is a medieval land where "corelings" -demons of the night-rise in the evening, killing all in their path. The book offers some vague background on the origins of the corelings, and the world's history, but the story is really a coming-of-age tale. Brett follows three young people, Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, from tween to adolescent to young adult. The social development of the duchy where these three live is a reflection of life battling night demons. Settlements, towns, and outposts that are within a day's ride of each other propsper; those further apart languish and struggle for survival. Villages and towns are linked together via the services of "messengers," a guild of men who can be hired to transport not only messages, but goods of various kinds. Some members of the messenger guild have regular jobs, working for nobles, others are totally freelance. Messengers are usually accompanied by "jongleurs ," who are traveling minstrels. Messengers are skilled in "warding," creating the magical defenses necessary to protect themselves from the corelings at night during their travels. The communities are protected by defenses set up by "warders," who are members of their own guilds in towns. In villages and outposts, the folk of the community contribute their own wardings.
While many modern coming-of-age stories are full of "emo" and teen angst, there's no time for that in Brett's universe. With humankind constantly at war against the corelings, kids grow up faster than fast. They live with a constant flow of death and tragedy, which pressures them to not only assume adult roles very early, but to marry and procreate as adolescents. Still, kids are kids, and teens having sex is always complicated, even in a world that prizes healthy babies as much as this one.
Arlen is the book's main character. Struck by the hard reality of the coreling war very early, he makes his way to a town with the notion of becoming a messenger. He signs on for a seven-year apprenticeship with a warder, since his natural warding skills must be developed and focused before it would be safe for him to travel as a messenger. Once his apprenticeship is complete, he's able to ply his trade as a messenger. Leesha is a pretty girl who runs afoul of her mother's matchmaking and town gossip. To escape, she apprentices with her village's "herb gatherer," the crone who is the community's healer and midwife. Rojer's talents and skills develop as he apprentices under a master jongleur.
It is Arlen who undergoes the most dramatic changes. His overwhelming desire to not just defend against the corelings, but to kill them and win the war takes him into the desert, traveling to the southern land of Kraisia. He learns much from the Arab-like society there, and in the midst of one of his desert journeys, he discovers that he can paint and tattoo wards directly on his body, transforming himself into the "warded man" of the book's title. As the Warded Man, Arlen's story arc converges with those of Leesha and Rojer, setting the stage for the sequel, where their generation takes the war to the corelings.
The tale is incredibly readable and enjoyable. Brett's universe is solid, his depiction of day to day life is excellent. There are no high magical lords, wizards, etc., in this world, it's just ordineary humans, some with more magical skills than others, trying to survive and help improve the world for their children....more