Carriger, Gail: Soulless

Gail Carriger’s Soulless, a Victorian steampunk urban fantasy, received a certain amount of favorable comment among people I know, so I ordered it on impulse. This was a mistake: I did finish it out of obligation, but I was disappointed and do not expect to read the rest of the books in the trilogy.

Alexia Tarabotti is, as the title says, soulless. We are assured in chapter one that as a result,

words like I and me were just excessively theoretical for Alexia. She certainly had an identity and a heart that felt emotions and all that; she simply had no soul. . . . If she had no soul, she also had no morals, so she reckoned she had best develop some kind of alternative [by reading Greek philosophy from age six on].

Which doesn’t make very much sense to me, honestly, but the execution could be interesting, so okay. But as the book progresses it seems more that being soulless allows Alexia to be feisty and independent and conveniently modern in her outlook (which is deeply peculiar), and then it seems that soul is simply a quantitative measure of how suspectible one is to being changed into a supernatural creature. (Alexia, having none, can actually negate the supernatural abilities of anyone she touches.) Both of which seem like a waste of potential to me.

The narrative also head-hops distractingly and unnecessarily, a characteristic I associate with bad romance novels, and indeed there is a romance that is so obvious that I found it tedious rather than entertaining. Like I said: disappointing.

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