The first book in the Alexia Tarabotti series, published October 1, 2009.
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.
I was hesitant about reading this book/series, as it is classified as steampunk (and other things), and on the book itself it says fantasy/horror. But I have read so many enthusiastic reviews about the series, I had to try it. And I am certainly not sorry to have taken the plunge.
Gail Carriger has created a wonderful world, set in Victorian times, but it is shared with vampires and werewolves, who are also welcome in Society. It is believed that he few humans who can be successfully turned into a werewolf or vampire, have an excess of soul. And all the humans who die shortly after the transformation, had just a normal soul, or just too little of it. Scientists have been trying to find out how exactly, and how to measure a persons soul. Which is very important to both the vampires and werewolves, as they would like to expand their species. Very little females are transformable, so their role in both the vampire as the werewolf world is much more important than as a mere human woman.
And then there is that very rare soulless person. Alexia Tarabotti is one of those. When she was six years old, a nice man from BUR, the agency that registers and controls all the supernatural beings, told her she was preternatural, soulless, and what it signifies. It is not that she is undead or so, she just has to work on her personality, and sense of right and wrong. So she studied hard ever since, being interested in science, so unlike her mother, stepfather and two stepsisters. Her own father was soulless as well, and Italian, which gave her her dark complexion and big nose. But he died when she was very young, so he did not have the chance to teach her anything.
Being soulless means that she cancels out the supernatural powers that make a person vampire or werewolf. When she touches a vampire for instance, his fangs disappear, he cannot bite her, and his superstrenght diminishes as well. A werewolf would change back to being human. But only for the time she touches him.
Due to her looks, her mother found it not important for Alexia to have a formal coming out, so at age 15, she was practically on the shelf. Not that she minds that very much, she has her fathers library, and her own pursuits. She prefers visiting the libraries instead of the balls she has to attend with her family. When the book starts, she is enjoying some tea she ordered from the butler. Normally a very rude thing to do, but there were no refreshments at all in the ballroom, and she does like her tea and foodstuffs.
Her solitude is interrupted though by a young vampire, who tries to bite her. When that doesn’t work he is confused, by keeps trying. Strangely enough, he seems not to know who or what she is. And Alexia knows that all the vampire hives have been informed about her existence. In the days of old, the preternatural hunted down the supernaturals, but that is a thing of the past. There are far to few preternatural beings left, as they don’t tend to get old.
When the vampire keeps attacking her, Alexia has no choice but to defend herself, for which she uses her beloved parasol, and a sharp wooden hairpin. She even accidentally kills him. And at that point some dandies discover her near a dead body, so she does the only reasonable thing left to her: she screams in horror and faints.
Then Lord Maccon, Alpha werewolf of London and surroundings, and head of BUR and his Beta, Professor Lyal enter the room, and Alexia has to tell what happened. Alexia and Lord Maccon have been rubbing each other the wrong way before, so Alexia is not very polite (which of course I like!). She wants to work for BUR as one of their agents, but as a young lady of the ton, that is just not done.
Where did this vampire came from? Malnourished, and without any manners or knowledge of the vampire world? All new vampires are registered, and there are even parties when someone is successfully transformed.
Alexia is also good friends with the rove vampire Lord Akeldama, a real dandy. Which is not to the liking of Lord Maccon, who is developing feelings for Alexia. But treating her as an alpha female werewolf is not working, as she does not know the rules to being one. She definitely is an alpha female, but not a werewolf! Professor Lyal is very much amused by it all, and gives his alpha some tips. But can an alpha werewolf grovel?
As I wrote before, I really like the book. The steampunk angle consists of little gadgets, which I loved. Like the ability to make tea inside a carriage. Or special glasses. Airships like balloons, but with more technology. It is certainly not taking over the story. And the horror, well, the part were the new vampires (and automatons) are “made” is not a happy place, but to name that horror is a matter of taste. I didn’t mind it, and I really hate anything scary.
I like Alexia. She is very outspoken, and knows what (and who) she wants. Her family is just a bunch of silly people, who are no match for her. Lord Maccon is also a great character. He has his hands full of her, but that is just what he likes.
One minor point was for me, how they kept harping that she is not pretty. Her skin is too tanned, her nose to big, her curves too round. No, she is not an English rose, but she has a great personality, and is very intelligent. Which is much more important. But her family really cut down her self confidence by constantly mentioning it in one way or the other.
I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series, as I enjoyed myself with this book. A very original story.