By Gail Carriger (website)
Mass market paperback, $7.99

Reviewed by Raven

Soulless was a fun novel. Mix Victorian England with vampires and werewolves and a coy sense of humor, and this book is the result. I think I can safely recommend it for fans of urban fantasy and Jane Austen (I know, Jane Austen is Regency, but still).

The narrative style and characterization made the book. That coy sense of humor I mentioned? It’s front and center in the tongue-in-cheek narration. In some books the narration is invisible, but in others you want to savor the turns of phrase the writer uses. Soulless falls into the second category.

Then we have our heroine, Miss Alexia Tarabotti. She’s not your typical Englishwoman of the time. For one thing, she’s devoured all of her father’s scientific books, so she knows far more about subjects like biology and anatomy than any proper young lady should know. She’s a spinster. She can negate supernatural powers with a touch. She’s also (*gasp*) half Italian. Shocking.

She’s surrounded by a cast of fun and quirky secondary characters, and let’s not leave out her love interest, Lord Conall Maccon. He’s single, gorgeous, and an Earl, which makes him the toast of London society despite his unfortunate Scottish heritage. He’s also a werewolf employed in the intelligence community, and he leads the investigation that forms the core of the plot. Miss Tarabotti, of course, does most of the actual work.

The plot itself is serviceable, but it’s not the novel’s strongest point. In fact, I guessed who the ultimate villains would be as soon as they were mentioned. They were also flatter characters than our hero and heroine and their friends. And some of the final resolution was just a little too pat. I found it wasn’t the story that kept me turning pages, it was Miss Tarabotti and the narration.

Here and there I had a few technical quibbles. Point of view switching in the middle of a scene. Occasional misused words. However, I was having so much fun with the book that I overlooked those.

I did have one big issue with the romantic relationship, and I can’t tell you what it was because it would be a spoiler. Now, if you know me, you know romance is often not my thing, but I’m fine with it as long as everybody involved acts like a rational human being (I can’t stand storylines where our heroine mentally reverts to a 13-year-old maturity level as soon as she meets the hero). In Soulless, nobody became suddenly immature. I actually thought the romance was handled very well except for that one spoiler I can’t reveal. Sorry.

Overall, this novel was a treat. I’ve already flipped back through more than once to reread particularly delicious scenes. Soulless will be taking its rightful place on my bookshelf.

Book two in this series, Changeless, releases on March 31, 2010.

NOTE: I’m not the one who thinks there’s anything wrong with being Italian or Scottish. That’s the prevailing opinion among London socialites in the book.