Monday, May 30, 2011

On Parasols and Octopuses

On this lovely Memorial Day morning I'm enjoying a breakfast of coffee and treacle tart. While this is both a decidedly un-American and un-breakfest-like meal, it is ideal when it comes to at last completing Soulless
 by Gail Carriger!

I found this book to be completely delightful and wholly deserving of the high praise and many recommendations that lead me to read it in the first place. If I were grading on personal enjoyment alone I would give it five stars, but I try to be a bit more critical than that. So, on to my review.

Plot Summery! (SPOILERS): This is the story of Alexia Tarabotti, a spinster half-Italian Englishwoman and person lacking a soul. Her soulless state renders her capable of canceling out the supernatural powers of vampires and werewolves. Together with her inquisitive nature and incurable stubbornness, this often gets her into a great deal of unladylike trouble. For example, they lead to a series of encounters with Lord Maccon, the local werewolf alpha. Lord Maccon is investigating a series of mysterious vampire appearances and disappearances, which poor Alexia keeps getting mixed up in. He also takes an intense personal interest in Alexia.

Now, I found this book listed under fantasy and seem to always find the series in the fantasy section. However, I think it would appeal equally (if not more so) to romance fans. A decent amount of time is spent on the budding relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon. Their banter is quite amusing. The actual fantasy bits have a steampunk feel--a lot of wacky yet menacing science. So I feel this book would appeal to a fairly diverse audience.

Alexia is a wonderful character. She's intelligent and forcefully independent, is blunt and honest in her mannerisms, and carries a weighted brass parasol as both weapon and accessory. Essentially she's a loveable miss-fit. Lord Maccon is equally appealing but a bit less well developed. He is similar to many alpha wolf characters that I've encountered in my reading expeditions--commanding, willful, loyal, and of course very attracted to our heroine. The secondary characters were also amusing and very appealing. Those that stand out most to me are Ivy Hisselpenny of the horrible hats, Lord Akeldama the gay vampire, and Professor Lyall the pack beta. All distinct, memorable, and likeable.

As for the plot, it has it's flaws. It flows all right, but gets a bit slow at times and relies pretty heavily on coincidence to progress forward. Alexia doesn't precisely save the day, but she is present for all of the action and helps a great deal. I've grown used to the alpha females of urban fantasy who run in guns blazing and fix everything themselves, and this wasn't like that at all. But at least she's not helpless. Furthermore, I found the ending satisfactory, is just a touch sugary sweet. There is also a notable amount of sequel baiting including the unexplained mystery of the brass octopuses.

As I mentioned, this was a five star book for personal enjoyment. It would be a four star book after honestly evaluating it's flaws. So I'll split the difference and give it a 4.5.

Incidentally, on of the ways I first heard about this book was the this cool little promotional link: behold, paper dolls!

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