Published in 2009 Soulless asks a very simple question: Can a soulless spinster find love with an Alpha werewolf in Victorian London?
Poor Alexia Tarabotti. Living in Victorian London as a spinster is not the most enjoyable of lives. However, Alexia has the extra burden of not having a soul – which has the power to neutralize supernatural powers. She is also half-Italian (another burden) and has just murdered a vampire with her parasol in the library during a party, breaking almost every rule in polite society. When the officials arrive to investigate the murder, the head officer is none other than Lord Maccon – loud, messy, gorgeous and werewolf – who is nursing a secret hankering for Miss Tarabotti.
That’s Chapter One. Where do you go from there? Into the realm of hysterical hijinks, drawing room dilemmas and passionate kisses, all served with the very best of tea.
SOULLESS is a delicate literary lampoon, seamlessly merging the darkness of Bram Stoker with the sensibility of Jane Austen set in Charles Dickens’ London. Gail Carriger pulls it off with aplomb. The heroine has much in common with Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett – witty, forthright and headstrong – but also has the additional talent of being lethal with a parasol. The writing style is very much Austenish, with its formality and cleverness, which induces not merely giggles and snickers but out right guffaws.
Here is a typical paragraph:
Professor Lyall was reminded of his Alpha’s origins. He might be a relatively old werewolf, but he had spent much of that time in a barely enlightened backwater city in the Scottish Highlands. All the London ton acknowledged Scotland as a barbaric place. The packs there cared very little for the social niceties of daytime folk. Highland werewolves had a reputation of doing atrocious and highly unwarranted things, like wearing smoking jackets to the dinner table. Lyall shivered at the delicious horror of the very idea.
Sweet, and sublime. Unfortunately, SOULLESS will be invariably compared to the recent Jane Austen “rewrites,” Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, but this is much better. In addition to her Austen sensibilities, Carriger also has a bit of Terry Pratchett, P. G. Wodehouse and Douglas Adams in her psyche. SOULLESS contains a complete re-imagining of vampire and werewolf lore, an accurate portrayal of Victorian society, a screwball comedy and a splash of steampunk tossed in for entertainment.
As part one of The Parasol Protectorate, this paved the way for the following novels: Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless.
Time for some tea. Bravo, Ms. Carriger.