Fantasy Review: ‘Soulless’ by Gail Carriger

No matter how bad the party, it should be considered rude for a vampire to attack a guest.  It is just unlucky to try to feed on a house guest that has no soul; a too forceful push with Alexia’s parasol and now the party has a dead vampire.    Enter BUR investigator Lord Maccon, a werewolf in which Alexia has no spark, romantic interest, or desire to get to know better.  No way would these two ever be interested in getting together, after all they have so many differences and it would never work.  Just can’t happen, aww, get the idea?

I would have hated this book if at any time the author had ever taken it serious.  My lack of history with romance novels (paranormal or otherwise) left me unprepared for the sheer amount of weak knees, neck nibbling, and “I love him I hate him” seen here.  But the author really knew how to play it, it was so over the top at times that it made giggle at times, and at others I may have actually blushed.  More importantly, I actually began to root for the romance at some point in the story.
Hidden around the romance aspects was a pretty damn good alt-history fantasy.   Vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings have actually been accepted into British society.  They follow strict rules, do their best to self-police, but also fall under the jurisdiction of the BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry).  Alexia is a rare ‘soulless’ being, the natural antithesis to the supernatural.  Her mere touch will take the undead back to mortality as long as contact is maintained; in the past people like her acted as hunters of the supernatural.  By being involved in the killing of a vampire she is dragged into something deeper; supernaturals are disappearing and no one is sure why.

I am not sure how to describe my feelings about this book.  I certainly enjoyed most of it.  The light tone never quite entered parody territory, but was still often humorous.  Every major character started as a caricature (aloof spinster, manly man werewolf, over the top gay vampire), yet over the course of a short book each was proven to be much more than they seemed.  Especially the over the top vampire, who often played to expectations in order to hide in plain sight. The plot was a very over the top as well, with the bad guys being either evil or clueless.  Alexia was a fun character, usually independent despite occasionally mooning over Maccon (Not really fair, Alexia is not a mooner, but she does think about him all the time).

The biggest issue I had with the book was the nature of being ‘soulless.’  Why did it prevent Alexia from appreciating art but didn’t seem to affect her emotions?  As anti-supernatural device it works, as a state of mind, not so much.  The lack of serious nature the book had can only be returned in kind; enjoyable yes, but this is certainly not a book that will stick with me for any length of time.  Also, the absolute horror found in the baddies lair doesn’t really fit with the light hearted nature the rest of the book shows, and the characters lack of seriousness while in said house of horrors doesn’t fit at all.  And when it is all said and done, half the book is taken up by a completely telegraphed romance with zero real intrigue.  With the outcome never really being in doubt, I wanted to start skimming whenever the two were in the room together.

Light hearted, a lot of fun, and at times very witty.  The writing is smooth and never clunky, and the pacing is very quick even with the romance due to the banter.  But almost nothing in the books needs looking into very deep or it may fall apart.  The quasi-science the bad guys were trying to pull went right over my head, and I am not sure it was meant to be dissected at all.  If taken for what it is, it can be an enjoyable read.

3 stars


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