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VINE VOICEon 21 November 2009
Well this one is a stumper....hard to know how to categorise it. In a world of infinite possibilities, someone, somewhere thought to ask the question, 'what would happen if I crossed victorian morality with historical urban fantasy, added a dash of high camp Carry-on and then threw in some werewolves, vampires and fashion tips?'. Soulless is the quirky and delightful answer to that bizarre question. a triumph of style over substance, this boasts little plot to speak of and yet is carried forward briskly by the deliciously spiky and most sarcastic voice of the narrator.

It was a brave and clever publisher that took a chance on this. It fits no neat box and as such could appeal to anyone with a taste for the dialogue of a Buffy episode filtered by way of Charles Dickens. If you have a dry wit and a way with words, there are quotes to be had for you here! I revelled in Ms Carriger's linguistic playfullness. Ultimatly this was less a novel than an excuse to show off an excitable imagination and a command of obscure vocabulary. that said, the plot, such as it was, exploded forcefully in the final few chapters and if this is seen as delightful prelude to a startlingly original new series then in book 2, perhaps having established her rules, convention and voice, Ms Carriger will truly dazzle us all. Recommended- but for who and why, i will have to remain silent!
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This was a very fun read. As the first in what I expect will be a successful series it was an intriguing mystery with some characters that I hope will continue into the next books and a lot of comedy (I'd love to know what exactly happened with the hedgehog).

It took me a couple of pages to get used to the initially very formal style, this is just scene setting and by the end of the first chapter things were rollicking along. Alexia is a very appealing character and her practicality in the face of supernatural beings made me laugh out loud.

Suffering from the twin social disabilities of lack of soul and a deceased Italian father (the latter being the most socially damning) she's a cross between Mary Poppins and Elizabeth Bennett with a dash of Cinderella thrown in. Bored by the limitations of her position she is resourceful at involving herself in situations where she can be of use, since her lack of soul makes her a unique asset in finding out who is creating new and unsanctioned vampires in London.

The book is "a Steampunk murder mystery with werewolves", but the thing I was most strongly reminded of were Georgette Heyer's regency romances. Whatever, it was good fun and I'll be reading more from this author, I like her sense of humour.
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VINE VOICEon 15 January 2010
What an absolute treat this book was to read! I absolutely loved it. I was recommended this book a few months ago so I picked up a copy when in NYC in December as it wasn't out in the UK then. Then in January I was lucky enought to interview Gail for this blog and was even more fascinated and intriguied when I read her answers. Who knew a book about vampires, werewolves and ghosts wandering around Victorian London and attending tea-parties would be so much fun? From the minute I cracked open the spine I knew I was in for a great ride. Our heroine is Miss Alexia Tarabotti and she has fast become one of my favourite characters in any book: she's feitsy, speaks her own mind, sarcastic, soulless, large chested and so funny!
In the opening pages, Miss Tarabotti accidentally kills a rogue vampire who tries to attack her, and although she is put out that said vampire doesn't appear to know that she was born without a soul and therefore immune to any supernatural attack, she is more annoyed that the vampire landed in the middle of the food table and on top of the treacle tart, which she had particularly been looking forward to. Within minutes, The Earl of Wolsey, Lord Maccon, arrives in the middle of the mess - he has been sent by Queen Victoria to investigate the mystery of disappearing registered vampires and appearing rogue vampires. Lord Maccon also happens to be a werewolf, the Alpha at that, and Miss Tarabotti appears to exasperate him at every turn. The characters are what really made this book, for me. Alexia aside, I also fell in love with Lord Akeldama, a flambouyant vampire who practically minces through the pages, and Lyall, Lord Maccon's beta werewolf and sidekick are fantastic, as are the vile Mrs Loontwill (Alexia's mother) and her two sisters.
Miss Tarabotti's adventure with trying to track down what has happened to the disappearing vampires and werewolves and getting herself kidnapped by a man with a wax face are nothing compared to the other big distraction that keeps following her around in the shape of an increasingly randy Lord Maccon. There are fangs, fur, ghosties, tea, treacle tart, peacock hats, silver-tipped parasols, adventure, science, satire blended with steampunk and some fantasy - the whole shebang.
I really did enjoy this book and I can't wait for the next in the series, Changeless, to come out in April. I can highly recommend this book and urge you to read it!
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on 7 August 2011
The whole idea isn't as original as some people seem to think - magic and supernatural elements blended into historical romance has been done before and rather better. Try 'Sorcery and Cecilia' for magic and Regency elements in a well-written, funny book.
The main strengths of this one as in the characters, but I came close to giving up on occasion. The book is littered with errors - like having marmalade as an ingredient in battenberg cake - and keeps lapsing into modern language. Someone gets slapped 'upside the head', for example. The author has a superficial grasp of the etiquette of the period, hero and heroine get themselves tangled into unlikely physical positions, Alexia's family are mere cliches and there's too much repetition about Alexia's big mouth and generous figure, and how very big and strong the hero is. Alexia gets far too carried away with necking and partially undressing in fairly public places, and the final scene in the coach after the wedding is frankly unnecessary.
The author needed much more help from her editors, who should have picked up on the errors of fact at least. I don't know if I'll bother to read the next one, even though I've been loaned a copy. I'm just glad I didn't actually spend money buying this - also a loan. Get it from your library.
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on 27 January 2011
I was really looking forward to reading this, and wanted to like it. I struggled to finish it - it is heavy handed, not well written, and fails my first rule for fantasy, that the imagined world should be consistent, and obey its own rules. The fun of this sort of steampunk comes from setting the wild and whacky - vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc - and the futuristic - dirigibles, wonderful brass gadgets - firmly into a Victorian social milieu. The Victorian setting here hardly goes beyond descriptions of women's clothing. Canterbury becomes a port city, upper class English women open their own front doors, young ladies in London refer to their father as "the Squire", and meet people on their stoop, the hero expostulates "Gee!" ... an accumulation of minor irritants. Had the book been well written, or a rollicking good tale, I might still have enjoyed it - it isn't, and I didn't!
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on 21 February 2012
The second I read the description of this book, I knew I had to read it. I love vampire novels (when they're well done, though there are far too many awful ones) and I love the Victorian era. From the very first page, I knew I wasn't going to be disappointed - I was giggling away like anything. The author juggles an astonishing number of genres - steampunk, paranormal romance, comedy, mystery/crime - and rather astonishingly, it turns into something wonderful rather than the big mess it could so easily have been.

In parts it was genuinely hilarious and in other parts very romantic. Throughout, it simply made me smile. The main character, Alexia, is very likeable, and the aristocratic werewolf love interest (a bit of a Mr Darcy figure) very appealing. The supporting characters, such as an extremely camp Wilde-esque vampire and a horrifically bitchy mother and sisters are also done well. The plot is a little silly, but engaging enough and it certainly kept me reading.

In so far as there were bad points, I think the main one was that it was all a little one note (Victorian Vampires! Werewolves in Waistcoats!) but to be honest, I loved that note so much that I can't really complain. Certain things were laid on a little over heavily however. I probably didn't need to be told quite so many times that Alexia is half-Italian, loves food and has a slightly dark complexion or that her best friend wears ridiculous hats. I'll probably read the other books in the series at some point (I'm sure they'll cheer me up when I'm having a stressful time), but perhaps as a result of this slight repetitiveness, I'm in no huge rush to pick them up as I imagine they'll be more of the same.

Finally,I noticed that some of the bad reviews made a big deal out of the author's alleged anachronisms. Now I wrote my thesis on women in eighteenth and early nineteenth politics, so if anyone was going to be upset by that sort of thing it'd be me. However, whilst there was the odd occasion where the phrasing made me cringe, and there was a bit of blurring of Regency/early Victorian/late Victorian fashions and mores, on the whole it seemed reasonably well researched. To be honest, if this sort of thing upsets you so much in a book that is clearly not meant to be overly historically accurate (I mean, last time I checked Queen Victoria didn't have a werewolf advisor!)and is just a bit of fun, then you're even more soulless than the main character.

In conclusion, not a perfect book, but a great fun, romantic, entertaining and pretty original one that neatly merges a variety of genres. Highly recommended to anyone who likes any of those genres or is looking for something different.
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on 11 April 2012
I really wanted to enjoy this book. The reviews and blurb seemed to promise well. However, I should have gathered that the review 'recalls Jane Austen and P. G. Wodehouse' was a caveat. I love those two authors, and although I took in mind a steam-punk novels would not have their subtlety it would nevertheless have a bit more zing and irony than the average cross-genre 'bodice-ripper' (A term that makes me blanch).

Page one. Bang! a good opening, action, werewolves, victorians and vampires from the start. However, I had to keep blinding myself to the terrible narrative style. What is this? An American imitating Jane Austen? It was heavy-handed and ridiculous, the irony was laid on with a trowel. This style was clearly trying very hard to sound English and within the time. It didn't. It was pastiche of Jane Austen and hardly any hint of Dickens (which would have been a little bit more appropriate). I am sure a little bit of a Jane Austen style when trying to add irony is good, however, not in action sequences. Maybe a more victorian lady adventurer's style would have suited it, with an implicit irony. The narrator's voice just did not work. I looked again at the blurb, daughter of an Ex-pat Brit. Hm, yes, she must be American.
The action was definitely there, murder in the first three pages but it still seemed somehow - amateur. All the main characters were introduced straight away and all their facts were crammed in. I may need to know that Lord Maccon is the Earl of Woolsey (probably to increase his sex appeal) and he is called Conall but not all within one paragraph - not when you have it all over again in the next chapter and the next. And to call an Earl, 'Lord Conall Maccon' - why? Is he a son of a Duke as well?
However, I thought, I could overlook it, let's see where it is going.

Next chapter, the style was settling down, but again and again it fell away into Americanisms. I had to take out a pencil and put myself in the place of an editor and cross out parts just to satisfy my conscience. But the main character telling her friend she hit the bad guy 'Upside the head' offended my sensibilities too much.
The next assault. Oh dear, yet again my heart sank. It is all very well, you are American, you want to do a Victorian steam-punk cross-genre novel - it has to be in London - no harm in that. But do the research! 'The Right Honourable Squire Loontwill' - eugh! It is almost as bad as calling Sir William Lucas, Sir Lucas. And I doubt Almack's would have seen a bustle - though it is possible - but the time this is set (what with the description of the dresses - and there are many) suggests 1880s. Doubt Almack's would still be dictating fashion when it is closed. And Canterbury a port? Hm, stick it in wikipedia, my dear, and see.
Wait! my mind says, you are enjoying the fantasy side of it. This is an alternate world. Canterbury, Almack's and all the rest are just part of this world.

The action and the mystery kept me going. And such a cross-genre novel may not be perfect but there are definitely werewolves and vampires galore and the idea of the preternatural is original and the fantasy side of it is definitely well thought out. However, sometimes the author's affection for the characters gets in the way of the plot and I think an aggressive editor was needed to cut out the pages of back and forth between the two main characters. The characters were sometimes funny, sometimes cringy. They were definitely made better than some. The main character was engaging, but she was not without her faults. She is clearly a modern woman dropped in this strange version of Victorian society, but the narrator doesn't seem to punish her for any faults she may have, whilst pointing the faults out (very directly) in all the others. The only faults that the others condemn are those which would only worry a Victorian society. But, for a modern reader: she lacks tact, and she is not as intelligent as the author makes her out to be. Sure, she has read all these books, etc. but she does not seem able to work the strange environment the author has invented for her in an intelligent way. Her American vulgarities withal she flouts this convention, then the next and it just does not remain convincing. She is different, but in no way does her strange background account for the fact she is clearly a modern American transplanted into a Victorian-esque world.

I enjoyed the book, in a guilty sort of way. Many of the ideas seem highly original and sometimes the narrators voice worked and I felt compelled to get out my pencil and circle the bits and cry 'hurray! I am allowed to smile.' But still the nagging feeling was there, and I was continually reminded, 'A victorian would not say that!', 'A Lady would not say that or do that!'
A cross-genre novel with an ironic, clearly Jane Austen style is very ambitious - you are imitating one of the greatest users of words in the English language for one thing - let alone the historical research, and the fantasy world to develop. As such I can forgive it; if you can blind yourself to the errors, eventually the style settles down enough for you to enjoy the story and the world. This book is clearly a work of love and there has been much thought in certain aspects of it. There was occasionally a sparkle of gems among its patchy ormolu.

Clearly, I am approaching this book as a British reader who occasionally dabbles in some fantasy and historical fiction when I want to get away with something easy to read. I was not expecting Dickens. For a Fantasy or Steam-punk fiend, this might be a refreshing change. In summary, if it did not have the steam-punk, fantasy-action plot then the heavy-handed narration, and the terrible Jane Austen-esque pastiche would have made me drop the book faster than the average regency-era romance that turns my stomach. (This is for an American market definitely).
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on 7 February 2011
Soulless was brought to my attention by a friend and on reading the first page I was hooked, the vocabulary is great and the humour fantastic. The author has created a heroine who doesn't consider herself perfect and is fabulously outspoken (especially in the Victorian era!)

Ms Alexia Tarabotti is, in simple terms, a spinster with no soul! She "accidently" kills a vampire, aggravates an Alpha werewolf while attempting pack etiquette and along with her trusty parasol beats her way through a pleasing mystery concerning London's high society. Including disappearances of the supernatural, hats of a rather stomach churning nature, a scientific cult who quite fancy finding out just how soulless she is....Oh and plenty to eat of course!

Great fun, made me laugh out loud, a fantastic read :)
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on 17 November 2011
This book was a bit like one of those rom-com films you get dragged along to by your wife/girlfriend then end up enjoying.

It blends Austin, steampunk, vampires, Frankenstein, Annodracula and perhaps even Pratchett into a witty little tale. A tale that has a definate chick lit flavour but was also surprisingly naughty!

I have to say the romantic elements dominated things a bit too much for my tastes but then I am a bloke. It will be interesting to see what my wife thinks of it. What I like was the writing style which was sharp and funny. The characters which were individual, fully fleshed and suitably eccentric and we had a strong female lead who avoided the usual cliche's of either being stunningly beautiful or running about in leather leotard swinging twin samuri swords.

I would have like a bit more drama and action and a bit less romance and descriptions of clothing but as I said above I am a bloke!

Without wanting to 'spoil'. The tale centres mostly around our heroine Alexia who as well as having no soul has also written herself off and excepted her spinsterhood. Fortunately the beefcake of the book Lord Maccon has a rather different view of her, but also happens to be head of a kind of supernatural police force working for Queen Victoria. Their romance of course does not run smooth and were it not for them being forced together by a dastardly plot that seems to be 'disappearing' many of the City's vampires and Werewolves (now a respected part of Victorian society) they may never have known about each others affections.

Looking at all the glowing endorcements this book has received it doesn't need my vote of confidence but I shall give it anyway! One for the fairer sex but a lot of us chaps will like this too.
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VINE VOICEon 1 December 2011
This book was recommended to me by a friend, it sounded a bit bizarre but I decided to give it a go and am very glad I did. It is very hard to categorise this book, apparently its "Steampunk" but that doesn't mean a lot to me. It is a strange mixture of regency romance, like Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen, with vampires and werewolves, like Twilight (but thankfully without the teenage angst!), and also a mystery element, vampires and werewolves are going missing.

Alexia is a great character, a feisty female struggling to conform to Victorian social etiquette and also dealing with being soulless. She reminds me of Amelia Peabody, from the Elizabeth Peters novels from the same period, with her trusty parasol she can take on anyone. The other characters are great too, especially Lord Maccon, a werewolf who works for the Bureau of Unnatural Registry and is rather annoyed to find Alexia keeps cropping up in his investigations. Other good characters are Alexia's vampire friend Lord Akeldama, Lord Maccon's second in command Professor Lyall and Alexia's best friend Ivy Hisselpenny.

I highly recommend this book, it should appeal to readers of all types of genres, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
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