This book is my first FULL Steampunk book. Granted it does include supernaturals and preternaturals in the world that Gail Carriger has created but it is still a Steampunk book not merely Steampunk inspired. The main premise of the Parasol Protectorate books is a world of Victorian England that is forward thinking enough to allow supernaturals like werewolves and vampires to hold positions of power in the government and roam about society unhindered. In the world that Alexia Tarabotti inhabits people travel by dirigible, train or coach. There are all manner of strange scientific instruments available, the telegraph has been proven worthless and of course, there are what Alexia calls "glassicals"- the typical Steampunk goggles that magnify and do a number of other worthwhile things.
Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster and she is fine with that- really. She has no designs on marriage and would rather read than attend balls. Alexia knows that she is too Italian, too enamored of food, too smart, to snarky and far too strong willed for most of English Society. She also has a secret, she is a preternatural or soulless. She was born without a soul and can negate the supernatural just by touch. Alexia opens the book hiding out in a library trying to enjoy some food and some quiet away from the ball that she is attending with her mother and half sisters. A man slips into the room and not only are his clothes sub par, but he has the audacity to attack her! She kills the poorly trained vampire with her parasol before Lord Maccon, the head of the BUR, the governmental office in charge of all things "unnatural." Lord Maccon, Earl of Woolsey, is also the alpha of the London werewolf pack. Lord Maccon and his beta, Professor Lyall, investigate the vampire's death at Alexia's hands and the three are drawn into a mystery involving supernaturals disappearing or appearing as if by magic across England.
One thing about the book that does take some getting used to is the language. The book is written in a historical fashion with language typical of the Victorian time period but it was easy to fall into and the books read quickly after the first few chapters. The mystery and suspense was not contrived, you had some hints but it was not all easy to see as you read. I really like when it's hard to guess at who the bad guy is or what the sinister plot really is. It's far better than reading and thinking "it was this bad guy and he's doing this- why can't the character see it!". The plot does keep you guessing. It was also fun to see "supernatural rules of etiquette" discussed along side the strict Victorian social mores. Really quite fun. In the end, Alexia and Lord Maccon come to an understanding about their feelings for one another and they solve the mystery that embroils all of the English supernaturals. Alexia is a really wonderful female lead character who has a strong personality that is not totally based on her love for a man. She functions very well as her own person, even in this Victorian based world. She's smart, cultured, well-read, and she has no qualms about standing up for herself and her rights.
I really liked this book and will definitely continue reading this series. I also have to say that while there is romance, it is relatively clean. I would highly suggest if you're into paranormal and want to give Steampunk a try but are afraid of it being too much like science fiction- these are the books for you. They are not overly any one genre. They are paranormal, Steampunk, historical and romance- but equal parts of everything. This series is utterly unique and I urge you to give it a try!
You can find out more about the upcoming Parasol Protectorate Books as well as Gail herself on her BLOG. Gail is also on TWITTER and FACEBOOK.
Soulless earns 4 Fairies for a wonderful intro into the world of steampunkery.