Alexia Tarabotti is labouring 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? Or 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 absoluely ADORED this book. Think of Jane Austen; her wit, her characters and settings, and add in the freedom of a 21st century writer, vampires, werewolves and a host of other species, and what you'll have is the Parasol Protectorate series. The characters are happily flawed, especially Alexia Tarabotti herself, who's half Italian tan skin 'pales' in comparison to the fair Victorian trend.
This is the first Steampunk novel that I've ever read, but to be honest there wasn't that many Steampunk elements. There were, of course, some fantastic machines, like the one that can make a you a cup of tea while you're happily rolling along in your carriage. It's rather a travesty that modern cars can't do this yet. Having said this, it's only the first in the series and I fully expect to see the machinery to grow.
The main characters are Alexia Tarabotti, the spinster in question, who I desperately wish was real so I could experience her fantastic comebacks in real life; Lord Conall Maccon, a Scottish earl who tries to hide his accent and who is Alpha of the Westminster Werewolf pack; and Lord Akeldama, the most flamboyant vampire and an absolute delight to read. Carriger paints her characters with a combined grace and awkwardness - no matter whether werewolf or vampire each person is so brightly painted they could almost be real, and certainly people I would want in my life.
Finally I have to say that this is the first novel I have read that has made me prefer werewolves over vampires, and that is a rather hard thing to accomplish. Well done Ms. Carriger.