Series Title: Parasol Protectorate
Author: Gail Carriger
Date Added: October 26, 2016
Date Started: April 26, 2018
Date Finished: June 1, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Supernatural/Paranormal, Paranormal Romance
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?
Note: I borrowed this from the library with the thought it was a graphic novel/manga. While there is a manga (which I also want to read after I finish the series), I didn’t realize it was based on the book, and that is what I wound up getting.
Nothing makes me happier than when a novel I’m dicey on becomes an utter delight. I considered DNFing this because of the, how should I say it, Victorian bigotry that’s presented more as Alexia’s navigation through it rather than her own personal fixation. She has to be concerned with her spinster status, huge nose, and darker skin (courtesy of her Italian father) because everyone, including and especially her mother and half-sisters, judge her for it.
Alexia Tarabotti has no soul, but this doesn’t affect her personality or caustic wit. According to her, she did have to study morals as a child, but her character doesn’t come off as someone missing that particular compass. In this version of Victorian England rife with vampires and werewolves, she’s politely known as “preternatural” and more bluntly as a “soul sucker.” Her soulless status cancels out supernatural powers, which causes questions to arise when she kills a strange vampire in self-defense.
The vampire lore in this books treats certain aspects of them more like insects. They’re part of a hive with a hive queen . Young ones are called larva, while more mature ones are drones. It’s not the way I’d write vampires, but Carriger does a good job laying out how their system works, and it sets up a lot of conflict and potential conflict for its strictures. There are also rogue, lone vampires like Lord Akeldama, Alexia’s rather foppish and over-the-top friend. He tends to speak in “italics” and has a bevy of dandies at his beck and call. That was one of the things that kept me reading, because the visual image of dramatically gesticulating and well dressed boys fawning over their vampire lord set off my love of everything gay, and I really, really wanted more of Lord Akeldama. I hope he’s more prominent in later books, not only for the fore mentioned reasons, but also because he’s one of Alexia’s loyalest friends.
I initially did not like the relationship between Miss Tarabotti and Lord Maccon, the sexy, Scottish, werewolf earl. It was painfully obviously from the get-go that Alexia and him are going to end up together, and I was annoyed at the lack of subtlety. I also fumed at the overly sexist tone of everything, but then I remembered that the author was portraying Victorian London after all, and the chemistry between Maccon and Alexia is straight fire. Their back and forth is hilarious with that “proper” Victorian charm they’re using to hide how they feel, and while the earl kissing her the first time was non-consensual (sigh), I had to remember the period in which this takes place.
Werewolves are considered “mostly dead” as well as supernatural in this world, meaning they’re not that far removed from vampires. Because of this they can’t reproduce, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the plot finds a way to skirt this.
This novel was delightful even if certain parts were really predictable. All of the characters are amazing, and I only hated the ones I was “supposed” to (I so wanted to smack Alexia’s mother. She’s meant to be a loathsome product of her time, but if she had been bitten by a werewolf, I wouldn’t have been too put out). The chemistry between the earl and the heroine is wonderfully witty, and the way Soulless is written makes even the most outlandish happenings seem par for the course. The mechanisms behind the disappearances is pretty common, but it’s truly the characters and world that give Soulless its spirit.