Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless Book Review PicGenre: Steampunk, Supernatural, Romance

Publisher/Date Published: Orbit/2009

Summary (from Goodreads):

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?

Why I Chose It/First Impressions:

This book has been on my to-read list forever. It was probably originally put there around the time I was much more… passionate about vampires and werewolves and any book that promised some sort of supernatural romance. You know, around that time. Anyway, I finally cycled back to the books I put on my list ages ago and decided to pick this one back up because I needed a bit of escapism, something light and fun, before delving into books with heavier topics. And I figured if anything’s going to be classified as escapism, it’s probably going to be the book about vampires and werewolves and fighting and tension and kissing or whatever. And did I get what I sought out here? Well… there was a lot of kissing.

Review:

Soulless was certainly entertaining. After the first hundred pages or so, which were a bit slow, I was sucked right into this strange, steampunk, Victorian, and supernatural world of romance. Though entertaining as it was, I can’t say I enjoyed all of it. I found myself rolling my eyes throughout many, many scenes. But this is the same reaction I have to most bodice-ripping romances: I can’t put them down, but I find it all sort of silly overall. That’s not to say this book is a bodice-ripping romance, but it does lean a lot more heavily into the romantic aspect than I first anticipated.

Character-wise, we have a very able, sassy, and homely by Victorian standards (though we as readers are supposed to see her as very pretty) heroine, Alexia Tarabotti. And then we have the hero and love interest, the grumpy, gruff, also attractive, brooding and controlling werewolf, Conall Maccon. To be completely honest, I wasn’t particularly crazy about either of these characters. This isn’t so much a comment on their likability or lack thereof, but simply that they just felt like caricatures of types of characters I’ve read about before. Two stubborn, fiercely independent characters who banter every time they’re around each other and pretend to dislike each other, though it’s painfully obvious to all the other characters that they are really into each other. And then they kiss and the rest of the story is just about deciding whether or not to admit their very obvious feelings for each other.

And that’s… pretty much what this whole thing was. The problem is that I think the story was trying very hard to be more than just a romance, but anytime the characters are alone in a room together, the only thing that matters is the romance. This happens even during one of the most tense scenes, when they’re both locked up and should be, I don’t know, maybe trying to figure out how to escape, but instead are struggling not to dry hump their worries away. Had I known the romance was going to feature so prominently in this, I may have approached it differently (I swear, I really do like romance!), but I just anticipating more, which made the whole thing feel like a bit of a let down.

What I will say is that the dialogue is clever, and while the style of writing did take me a bit of time to adjust to, I did appreciate Carriger’s attempts to echo the style of writing of the time period in which the story is set.

Conclusion:

I think that had I read this when I was younger, I may have enjoyed it quite a bit more. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that back then one of the main draws to anything I read was the amount of romance in it, and so this would have been right up my alley. But I didn’t hate it. To me, it was just okay, but I think I’ve sort of lost interest in this sort of genre. But it you’re looking for a  Victorian-era, Jane-Austen-esque romance with supernatural elements, I think you’ll absolutely love this. As for me, I think I’m willing to keep some space between me and the supernatural genre for a little longer yet.

3/5 Stars

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