Sunday, March 9, 2014
Soulless by Gail Carriger
by Gail Carriger
Published: Little Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group
Genre: Fiction - Romantic Steampunkish
Source: personal copy
"The vampire's hands shot forward, going for her neck. Apparently, he decided if he could not suck her blood, strangulation was an acceptable alternative. Alexia jerked back, at the same time pressing her hair stick into the creature's white flesh. It slid in about half an inch. The vampire reacted with a desperate wriggle that, even without superhuman strength, unbalanced Alexia in her heeled velvet dancing shoes. She fell back."
Because I liked the idea of a covert finishing school that trained young ladies to be spies and I was looking for something fun to read, I picked up the first book of Gail Carriger's Finishing School series, Etiquette & Espionage, and enjoyed it a great deal. The second book Curtsies & Conspiracies I didn't enjoy quite so much, but it was still a fun light read. There are two more books to the series, but the next is not due out until the end of the year. Therefore I decided to read the first book in the original, adult Parasol Protectorate series set in the same universe. I understand that there is some connection and repeating characters, so I thought I would like to fill in some back story, plus I already had the ebook from some point in time when the book was on sale (TBR bonus!).
The good - Soulless was a very light, fun, quick read. Alexia Tarabotti is an enjoyable protagonist to follow, though she had the stereotypical nasty stepsisters - the twist here is that it is her own mother that prefers the younger girls to her older daughter, who takes after her deceased father. I would have preferred her friendship to Ivy to be more equal, but at least she had a female friend.
Alexia's 'power' is also quite interesting, cancelling out the supernatural natures of vampires and werewolves - making them human on contact. So - very special women who has amazing powers, but lacks self-confidence and, because of her mother and sisters, is unaware of her own attractiveness. (Is this becoming a requirement somewhere?) There were rather too many awkward POV shifts in the text for the sole purpose of allowing the author to remind us that even though Alexia has dusky skin and a rather Roman nose, she also has a spectacular figure and is really a sultry Italian-style beauty. That got rather tedious.
The bad - I didn't realize that this book is more a romance with steampunk/supernatural overtones than a steampunk/supernatural adventure that happened to include romantic overtones. The difference is rather important to me, since romances are generally not my thing. I can still enjoy a romance element if it shows the development of a relationship. In Soulless, it took very little time to establish the match and go from a Hepburn-Tracy spat thing to deep kissing, so that was not really terribly interesting (plus - they didn't appear to worry at all about the implications of that pairing - could they have children? what would they be ? wouldn't the marriage shift the balance of power too much?)
I would still have been at least fine the story if the sexytimes interruptions were not so ill-timed, repetitive and long. Sexytimes should not start boring the reader. And I have a really hard time believing characters throbbing and groping each other while in imminent danger! It just doesn't make any sense to me and really distracted from the story. If romance is your thing, I imagine that you would have no problem with the book, but for me there was too much lusting, rubbing and stuff. It kept feeling like I had wandered into someone's boudoir.
The book also really needed a wider world. If you only have a handful of active presences in a story, there isn't much mystery to 'who dun it.'
Overall, I liked the story, but I am not sure that I am interested enough to pick up the next book. Did things get more interesting and less throbbing in the next book?