Wealhtheow's Reviews > Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger
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's review
Dec 01, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: mannerpunk, urban-fantasy, fantasy, queer-characters
Recommended for: fans of frothy pseudo-Victorian paranormal romance
Read on June 15, 2010

Miss Alexia Tarabotti is too old, too plain, and far too assertive to hope for a husband. But Alexia isn't just any spinster--she literally lacks a soul, and as such has a natural defense against anything supernatural. Vampires and werewolves turn human when they touch her (and revert back as soon as they stop touching). In Carriger's London, a vampire and a werewolf advise the Queen, there are night sessions of the Houses of Lords and Commons so the supernatural can attend, and vampires can just go down to the blood-brothels to get a legal sup of blood, being "soulless" is quite a useful defense indeed. Alexia is swept into a whirl of intrigue, and only her allies (her flamboyant vamp friend Lord Akeldama and her love interest, the werewolf alpha Lord Maccon), her quick wits, and her skill with a parasol can save her.

I enjoyed reading this. But once I put it down, I started to feel annoyed. The problem is, none of this story holds together. The Victorian society Carriger posits reads like any other romance-novel-version of Victorian London. Apparently, having vampires and werewolves living as part of the ton for the last three hundred years has had no impact whatsoever on the development of society. Oh sure, there are a few comments about how the supernatural creatures have sped up technological progress--aluminum as fashionable jewelry, odd balloons as a method of transport. But it's all window-dressing. They still get around via horse-and-carriage, their medical knowledge is as basic as can be, they're only just figuring out gas lighting, they don't even have telegraphs yet. And all the societal rules are the same! A big deal is made about how vamps and weres are so socially powerful and fashionable--and yet their mores aren't part of Victorian society at all. Humans don't ape the dominance displays of the wolves, or powder their faces to look like vamps, or show any awareness at all that they're surrounded by predators that think of them as food. The Church of England isn't even mentioned, but it apparently has no problem with supernatural beings that transcend death and live on blood. The book gives one neither the feel of Victorian England nor the feel of a magical city. It's just all thrown together, and it makes no sense!

And neither do the characters. They work like coin-operated figureines, performing whatever romance cliche they're supposed to, one trick after another. Here's how it goes:
girl and boy meet!
they bicker!
each leaves and reflects on how hot and bothered they are by the other! plot device throws them together!
he shuts her up with a masterful kiss!
her sexuality is awakened!
(interlude with secondary characters to maintain pretence that love interests have friends outside of their relationship)
oh no danger!
forced by plot to be naked together!
defeat evil together!

And scene. It's frustrating, because this book amused me while I read it, but esprit d'escalier is its downfall. Carriger throws a lot of cute windowdressing and nearly-funny one-liners into this book, and if her writing were a smidge more clever or a bit more thoughtful, I'd have enjoyed this immensely. As it is, I feel like I bit into a scrumptious looking pastry and got nothing but air.
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Reading Progress

06/15/2010 page 47
13.0% "Alexia tried to explain that the vampire's supposed inability to enter private residences uninvited was a myth based upon their collective obsession with proper social etiquette, but her mother refused to believe her."
06/15/2010 page 111
31.0% "Ugh, the old "masterfully kiss you to shut you up" move. So over it."
06/15/2010 page 145
41.0% "I always appreciate shout-outs to Dr. Snow and his cholera work, no matter how self-congratulatory they are. Plus, I like the reminder of the old-school "miasmatic hypothesis of disease transfer.""
06/15/2010 page 192
54.0% ""wax-faced man" actually quite an effectively scary villain!"
05/09/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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Kelly No no, save yourself!

Wealhtheow It's too late, I am already beset by cutesy steampunk and "Italian as uncontrollably emotional and assertive"! The curse is come upon me!

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

NoooOoOOOoOoOOOo. What have we done? :0

Wealhtheow Regret nothing!

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Yeah, this could be a ton a worse, which seems like faint praise, but having recently read the Worst Romance Novel of all time, it's really not. (And I know this isn't classed as romance, but that's definitely a component.)

Kelly Alas, we are too late! *shakes fist* I join in the chorus of apologies! I will be interested to see your review on the flip side, though...

Wealhtheow Actually, at my library it *is* classified as romance--even has the lurid pink heart sticker slapped across the spine.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Yeah, it's funny, this genre-bending stuff really ends up all over the bookstore. They were pushing it pretty hard at the last sf convention I went to - I guess getting into more markets makes sense.

Kelly Did you finish already??

Wealhtheow Haha, yes, I used up my lunch hour to do it. It's only a few hundred pages, and let's be honest, the writing is not particularly difficult.

Kelly Fair! I totally agree with your point about the 'masterful kiss to shut her up'. So tired!

Wealhtheow I don't understand why it's so popular. I liked the trope in Much Ado (stop his mouth with a kiss!), but that was because the bickering was clearly all in fun. When I'm in the middle of a proper argument, when I'm actually disagreeing with someone, the *last* thing I want is someone trying to shut me up or mack on me. How on earth could that technique possibly work?

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Once you take out the skinny dipping, then no. There was this one time skinny dipping though.....

message 14: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell he shuts her up with a masterful kiss!
her sexuality is awakened!


....I missed out on PrP and SO'M, so I might read this.

message 15: by Suna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suna Hah! That pastry thing wasn't just me then...

Wealhtheow Suna, definitely not just you, alas. There's a sequel (and probably more--I'm sure the author is going to ride the trend of paranormal romance as long as possible), so maybe it gets better? But I highly doubt it.

message 17: by Suna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suna There are three (!) sequels that I know of so far and I will be reading at least the second one: I've basically decided to suspend my disbelief/taste and enjoy the fluff.
It comes in nice tastes and colours, albeit fleetingly so.

But if by some fluke it actually improves I will let you know...

Ungelic_is_us Perfect review! And was it just me, or does she sometimes struggle with the definitions of some words? Like "reticent," for example?

Wealhtheow You are not alone. I had the sneaking suspicion that Carriger was unclear on how to use many of her words.

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