Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Soulless by Gail Carriger, narrated by Emily Gray

Rating

* * *

The book's description from the publisher's website:

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?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.
This book was fun. Pure entertainment to while away boring and/or dull hours we all have here and there.

I'll admit I have some mixed reactions to it and I was having a hard time deciding how to rate this novel. Some things just don't make sense. For example, Alexia's soullessness. It does give her that one supernatural (or rather, preternatural) power of taking away other supernaturals' powers by a single touch (sadly, no shape shifting or immortality involved) which is an interesting introduction to the paranormal genre. However, character-wise, Alexia couldn't be farther away from my idea of a soulless person (a psychopath comes to mind). I understand that to match the light and amusing tone of Soulless, Ms. Carriger couldn't make Alexia a completely evil woman, with no moral compass. But not a single, teeny tiny sinister trait? That's a little bit of a letdown. Sure, Ms. Tarabotti is stubborn, with an independent and untamed spirit, and with an alpha (of course, duh!!!) personality, but it is kind of mundane, if you ask me. For that alone, I wanted to give Soulless two stars.

On the other hand, I truly enjoyed the light tone of the whole story. I liked the humor, I liked Alexia's and Lord Maccon's 'dance' around admitting their feelings and desire for each other (don't worry, I'm not really spoiling anything, as it's obvious from the beginning where their relationship is going). I also had fun with other characters, especially with Ms. Tarabotti's mother and half-sisters. You put them all in one room and you truly have a comedy of manners. Consequently, I did chuckle a few times and smiled almost all the time, while listening to Soulless. And the writing itself wasn't half bad either. It had a kind of a spring-in-its-step quality. For these reasons, I was ready to bump the rating up to four.

In the end, after hoping that Alexia would suddenly do something deliciously evil and not getting it, I got stuck in the middle. I did like it enough to not consider it a waste of time but not enough, I'm afraid, to read the rest of Parasol Protectorate books (well, maybe if I find them during one of my frequent library sales excursions).

P.S.

The label attached to this book the most is 'steampunk'. Personally, I didn't notice many steampunk elements in Soulless. There was maybe one appearance of a dirigible delivering the queen of vampires' drone to Alexia. Not much that I can think of besides. Maybe because it's set in an alternate Victorian England? Definitely more fantasy than science-fiction, with werewolves and vampires taking the center stage.

Narration

I chose the audible version of Soulless and I'm glad of it. The narrator, Emily Gray, does a fantastic job conveying the sarcastic spark in Alexia and an overall humor of the story. She switches between characters and accents seamlessly. I never was confused as to which character was talking. Above all, Ms. Gray has a pleasant voice, breathes life into the novel and makes the listening experience worthwhile.

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FTC: I bought a copy of Soulless by Gail Carriger.