“Soulless” by Gail Carriger was published in 2009 by Orbit. It is the first book of the “Parasol Protectorate” series starring, I assume, the character Alexia Tarabotti. My copy came with a small interview with the author and I went to her website. Ms. Carriger is amusing and witty. Honestly, the novel itself is neither erudite or exceedingly intelligent, I feel like Carriger could easily write much more intelligent novels. However, I’m not sure she really needs to. After all, I found this novel to be rather entertaining.
The basic idea of the novel is that since the “dark ages,” Europe (especially England) has come to terms with the existence of supernaturals – and the supernaturals have mostly integrated into the normal society. The Crown has advisors who are supernaturals and help her to make national decisions. Many of the upper crust of society contains both normals and supernaturals – including the supporting main character, Lord Macon, who is a werewolf. Werewolves live in packs lead by alphas (Lord Macon is an alpha) and live in districts/counties. Lord Macon also runs the BUR, which is a department which monitors supernatural activity in the district.
It has been said that this novel is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. That is probably true. I suppose the novel could be taken on a “serious” level, but I really feel there is an alternate way of reading the book: for sheer fun. And in that reading, it is almost a spoof of “Victorian ideals” and the current obsession with Vampires and Werewolves in mass media entertainment. Carriger writes a very funny spoof. It’s not entirely intended as a spoof, of course. However, it amuses me to read the interactions between Alexia and the “upper-crust” of society as well as the interactions between the servants of the vampire/werewolf community.
Alexia is a fun character because she is stubborn and outspoken. She doesn’t fit into the society like she should and she possesses a lot more bravery and knowledge than her peers. This is what attracts her to Lord Macon – and he to her. The sex in the book is really comical, a bit too much of it for my tastes – even though it’s not entirely graphic – but still amusing enough.
I would like to read the next book in the series. It probably will not be just more of the same, because the end of “Soulless” leaves Alexia in some interesting circumstances and I’d be interested in seeing what happens next. It’s not something that I am really burning to read, but I suppose for a light read that would be fine. Carriger obviously has a well-developed sense of humor and can channel classic English novels into a light novel.