Wendy Darling's Reviews > Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger
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Here is a most edifying (and highly scientific) quiz you may use to ascertain whether this novel is one that you will enjoy.

* Is your bookcase overflowing with strong, decisive heroines?
* Do you chuckle over the animated Gorey titles preceding a PBS “Mystery!” presentation?
* Are you fond of the Victorian era?
* Does witty prose make you positively giddy with excitement?
* Have you ever lingered over a bit of lace or wistfully touched a velvet coat?
* Are you delighted when someone brews a pot of tea?
* Does the notion of shape-shifters tickle your fancy?
* Are you fascinated by the seductive appeal of vampires?
* Have you a penchant for strong, handsome men?
* Do you look discreetly and longingly at other people’s plates?

If the answer to most of these questions is “yes” then you musn’t hesitate—it’s quite possible that Soulless will thoroughly please your palate and leap right onto your “favorites” shelf. If the answer is “no,” then clearly there is no romance in your soul this is a book to be most assuredly avoided.

You will have to forgive my enthusiasm in this review. I was positively in ecstasies over the witty language as I was reading this deliciously dotty book, and even as I write this it’s hard to keep from smiling. The story follows Miss Alexia Tarabotti, a preternatural being who has the ability to remove supernatural powers as long as she is touching the other person. Alexia is a clever bluestocking with revoltingly independent tendencies and an unfortunate weakness for treacle tarts. As a spinster, she’s resigned herself to hovering on the edges of glittering social engagements--that is, until she gets caught up in the mystery surrounding a strange vampire attack that flaunts all the rules of polite society. Not to mention that such attacks are a serious breach of good manners.

Meticulously detailed and overflowing with good humor, Soulless is a like a cozy mystery run mad, set in an inventive alternate universe populated with a dizzying array of colorful characters. I’m quite sure that Gail Carriger has been busily spying my bookshelves to see all of the different kinds of books I enjoy and wrote this just for me, as I jotted notes continuously as I read because I found so much to exclaim over. If you’re curious about the writer’s style, I would strongly recommend downloading the preview chapter to try or having a look at my status updates, since I quoted a fair number of my favorite lines.

I haven’t read that many steampunk novels yet, but it’s hard to imagine that there could be another one that blends the Victorian era and imaginative paranormal fiction as seamlessly as this one does. I loved the marvelous descriptions of glassicals, carriages outfitted with tea kettles and viewing lenses, and the various steam-powered machines and engines. (view spoiler)

What I appreciate most about this book, however, is that the author did a splendid job of melding mystery, steampunk, and romance together in such a wonderful way while observing the customs and attitudes of the Victorian era. I have such a pet peeve about novels that are set in this time that largely ignore traditional views towards women or the rules of society; while I don’t expect every historical novel I pick up (especially light-hearted entertainers like this one) to be completely accurate, it is a joy to find a book that is so thoroughly researched and comfortable with the manners and mores of the period. Although Alexia is obviously a supernatural being with unusual powers, she also has the same concerns as other women of her time: the feminine role in society, the need for security through marriage, the uncomfortable marginalization of thinking women, etc. I felt enormous sympathy for Alexia when she says simply, “I would so like something useful to do.” The author spends just enough time working these details into the story before she transcends those issues and gives our heroine the means to overcome her problems in a completely enjoyable way.

Once the big confrontation occurs towards the end, however, I did feel that the book lost a bit of its momentum since it would have been better if things were wrapped up more quickly, and the paranormal aspects of Alexia's abilities are perhaps a little on the slight side. There was also a bit more romance in the novel than I expected, but you know, I’m as willing to be seduced by a handsome werewolf as the next lady, so I was happy to go along with that part of the story. It’s not a hardship when Miss Tarabotti and Lord Maccon are such well-matched individuals. And, um, some of their scenes together made this reader fan herself more than once.

I had such a wonderful time reading this novel. This style of writing and humor and story will not be for everyone, but I found it to be hysterically funny, swooningly romantic, and thoroughly entertaining. I absolutely adore it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ And I want to pepper it with kisses. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
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Reading Progress

June 16, 2011 – Shelved
July 4, 2011 – Started Reading
July 4, 2011 –
1.0% ""Pleathe, I did not mean to prethume," he lisped around his fangs. <--- I love this so much already!"
July 5, 2011 –
27.0% "As a general rule, Lord Maccon appreciated a voluptuous woman. He liked a bit of meat on the female form, more to grab on to--and more to chew off."
July 5, 2011 –
28.0% "Oh MY. A man who tastes like one of those expensive French soups, dark and rich. *fans self*"
July 5, 2011 –
33.0% "Petite oysters over ice with cool lemon cream. *sigh*"
July 5, 2011 –
34.0% "Highland werewolves had a reputation for doing atrocious and highly unwarranted things, like wearing smoking jackets to the dinner table. Lyall shivered at the delicious horror of the very idea."
July 5, 2011 –
42.0% "What was the maximum possible expansion ratio? *grins foolishly*"
July 5, 2011 –
69.0% "Alexia was beginning to find the whole octopus prevalence slightly sinister."
July 5, 2011 –
72.0% "Miss Tarabotti was most disgruntled, partly because she had not been informed and partly because Lord Maccon's hair was so very silky."
July 5, 2011 –
81.0% "He kissed her as though he needed her to subsist. It was unbearably intimate. Worse than allowing one's ankles to be seen."
July 5, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-50 of 130) (130 new)

Stephanie You should be, it's pretty wonderful :)

Wendy Darling I'm so excited to finally be reading this! I'm having such a good time with it already.

message 3: by Mandy (new)

Mandy I met her at ALA. She had on the cutest outfit. I can't wait to read her books.

Wendy Darling Oh, that's amazing! All her publicity photos are adorable. Coming from someone who owns many vintage gloves and handkerchiefs and hats but no parasol, I am completely envious of her style.

Lora Ooohh . . . I've been wanting to read this series for quite some time. If you like it, I'll probably break down and finally read it. ;)

Wendy Darling Oh Lora--I absolutely LOVE this. I can't remember the last time I had such a perma-smile on my face as I was reading something! If you love Victorian England, you will really appreciate this. It's so witty and clever and it combines so many of the things I like: mystery, magic, werewolves, vampires, romance, strong heroine, humor, handsome men, TEA...

Do you Kindle? I bought the 3-book bundle for $9.99, which is a bargain since they're all $7.99 individually.

If not, I think some of them are currently part of the 3 for 4 special offer. :)

Lora Handsome men and tea you say? I'm there! Plus you know I love Victorian England.

Oh no, me no Kindle. BUT my library has the whole series, so I'll just get them there. :)

Wendy Darling Excellent! I think you'll really enjoy this. I love all the main characters, especially the food-obsessed Alexia. :)

Carolyn F. I just love the humor in this book - it's so great.

Wendy Darling It IS. It's just wickedly funny and puts me in such a good mood. She does such a great job of blending so many different genres and elements, too.

Kate (Nomalicious Reads) It was an amazing book :D I've just ordered books 3 and 4 last week (already had book 2) because I read some spoilers I decided I didn't want to read the second until I had the next 2 in the series, so I'm very excited to pick them up again! :D

Wendy Darling I loved it...and I'm so excited to have 3 more books to breeze through! :) One of my friends just warned me about the spoilers on the book blurbs, too. (Boo!)

Kate (Nomalicious Reads) yeah I read the synopsis's for the third book and got a massive spoiler for the second, I was devastated, but when I have them all I'll be reading them all quickly :D

Wendy Darling That really stinks. I never understand when publishers do that...but now you've made me nervous about Book Two's contents! :(

Kate (Nomalicious Reads) I'm sure it will be fine! I've just been nervous about it too hahaha lol

Nafiza Book Two's lovely.

Wendy Darling Okay, phew! I started getting all anxious about all the possible terrible scenarios.

Nafiza Hehe nope. Book two is definitely fantastic. I thought so anyway.

message 19: by Wendy Darling (last edited Jul 06, 2011 01:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling Thanks for the reassurance. I thought it was a little too early to do anything too drastic or angry-making, but all these warnings were a little alarming! Back to the happy place. :)

message 20: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Whoa! 5 stars and a perma-smile!?! I have to check this one out! :)

message 21: by Crystal (new)

Crystal Cook I've never even heard of these but now I MUST read them! :)

Wendy Darling It is a deliriously fun book! Definitely not something that will be to everyone's taste, but it really tickled my fancy. :)

message 23: by AH (new) - rated it 5 stars

AH I'm so glad you enjoyed this. The next book is a lot of fun, too.

Wendy Darling I'm happy to hear that! I love the originality of this set-up.

Michelle Great review! I have been wanting to read this book for quite a while, but my Library never seems to have it in - I think I have another month wait for it on the reserve list! Nice that so many people want to read it, but, sheesh!

message 26: by Jo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jo Those, *cough*, scenes you referred to had me clutching my pearls on more than one occasion. ;-)
Great review as always, Wendy!

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) I’m as willing to be seduced by a handsome werewolf as the next lady

My eyebrows went up up up at this part. :-D
Amazing review! I'm so happy you loved this.

message 28: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Power I think it is high time that I wistfully touched a velvet coat.

Misty "Do you look discreetly and longingly at other people’s plates?"

Hahaha! YES! Perfect way to sum up Alexia. Love this series. Just got Heartless, going to try to work it in soon.

Monica Lol, Wendy, this is a great review! I would have never even considered picking up this book had I not seen your opinion of it. But now I feel like I am missing out on the last piece of treacle tart if I don't read it quickly!

message 31: by Wendy Darling (last edited Jul 06, 2011 01:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling Oh, thanks everybody! I am so happy to have found such a fun series. Michelle and Monica, I am of the opinion that if you even *think* you might like this book, you probably will.

Misty, I confess that I sometimes don't remember to be discreet when I look lustfully at other people's plates, but Miss Alexia is certainly more well-mannered.

Jo and Maja--a handsome werewolf does wonders for my late-night reading.

Timothy--I think so, too. ;)

Crowinator This is an excellent review! I love you calling the book "dotty" -- that's the perfect word.

Crowinator Gail Carriger also spoke at the Margaret Edwards awards luncheon about Terry Pratchett, who couldn't be there, and she had quite a touching and humorous speech. Also, she was dressed like I imagine Alexia to dress, with the white gloves and everything. Very striking.

Wendy Darling Hah, GOOD Cillian! I love when I find books to get excited about.

Crow, it must've been great to hear the author speak. I love her style of dressing, though since she's donned this persona, I bet it's easy for her to slip in and out of places unnoticed if she chooses. All she has to do is put on jeans and a tee shirt. :D

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously I love this book. One of the best things I can say about this novel is it's a book where I actually LIKE vampires and werewolves. Seriously Lord Maccon & Lord Alkedema put every other supernatural being to shame! Normally I hate vamps and the few werewolf books I read were so mopey that I was like "UGH." This book is fun, not-emo and I just want to hang out with it all the time.

This is the type of book my girly side likes. I can root for Alexia and even when she's involved with romance she never loses herself. She's Alexia through-and-through.

Wendy Darling Yes, the vampires and werewolves in this novel are definitely of the more good-humored variety. It is a very girly book that had me giggling in a very girly way!

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Wendy Darling wrote: "Yes, the vampires and werewolves in this novel are definitely of the more good-humored variety. It is a very girly book that had me giggling in a very girly way!"

But it's an intelligent girly book. Which just makes me so happy.

Wendy Darling Well, intelligent girly girls are the best kind. :)

message 39: by Katy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy Well, the good thing about taking so long to get to it is that you don't have to wait a year in between the next three books like the rest of us! I adore this series (currently reading Heartless).

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Katy wrote: "Well, the good thing about taking so long to get to it is that you don't have to wait a year in between the next three books like the rest of us! I adore this series (currently reading Heartless)."

JEALOUSY! I want Heartless already

Wendy Darling Katy wrote: "Well, the good thing about taking so long to get to it is that you don't have to wait a year in between the next three books like the rest of us! I adore this series (currently reading Heartless)."

Yes, that was rather clever of me. ;) I see that the author also has a YA series publishing next year, which I'm sure will be a lot of fun, too.

message 42: by Katy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy I can't wait for the new series! I love Gail Carriger.

Elena Great review! This series is favorite of mine, and there really isn't anything else quite like it out there.

The second book is great as well, but I felt the third dragged a bit, though it also has a whole lot of Professor Lyall, who is pretty much my favorite werewolf ever, so that makes up for some minor plot and pacing issues. I'm so excited for Heartless!

I hadn't heard she was writing a YA series! That is extremely exciting news!

message 44: by Wendy Darling (last edited Jul 06, 2011 09:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling I like Professor Lyall quite a bit too, so I'm glad to hear he has a bigger role in the upcoming books. All the characters are pretty fun, really.

message 46: by Kaye (new) - added it

Kaye Wow. I definitely have to read this one now, Wendy :)

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Loved the review. :)

Wendy Darling Thanks so much! :) This was one of those times I was really looking forward to writing the review since I liked the book so much.

And I hope you'll give this a try, Kaye--it's the perfect read when you want some intelligent but light-hearted entertainment.

message 49: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia Gray I think after I read this book I ran around calling everything "posh" and "smart" like "Oh, what a smart vest you have there" - you just can't help it, it's too delightful!

Wendy Darling Indeed. And see, even the comments about this book make me smile! Such a happy-making experience.

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