Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Let me begin by telling you that I read. I mean, I read a LOT. Or at least when I have free time. And I typically read books that I know I'll enjoy (with a few exceptions, like for school or research). If I find a book that's really good, I recommend it to other people. Yes, I worked in a bookstore for a couple of years and that was part of my job, but if a book is great, then you just HAVE to read it. If you've spent ANY time reading my blog, I'm sure you know how much I love Jim Butcher's work. And I recommend him to you VERY strongly.

Well now I've found a new author whose work you MUST read: Gail Carriger. Her first book, Soulless, begins when Miss Alexia Tarabotti accidentally kills a vampire at a society ball. In the space of a few pages, she draws the reader in with charming Victorian wit and clues them in to the rules of a society where vampires and werewolves walk openly among the people.

The dialogue is handled masterfully. All of the characters have a unique voice, and their conversations allow their personalities and histories to be revealed without the author boring the reader with character backgrounds that don't relate to the plot. Each character's relationship with another character is made clear within the first three or four paragraphs of interaction, and not because Carriger steps away from the narrative. The dialogue and actions show the reader exactly what they need to know. And even when the conversations are serious, Carriger manages to keep the reader entertained with little bits lighthearted humor.

Even though Soulless is written in the third-person omnipotent POV (as opposed to third-person close), the switch from one character's thoughts to another's is never jarring. Each transition is smooth, subtle, and presented in a way that keeps the reader moving forward, rather than flipping to previous pages to figure out what they missed.

Carriger's use of third-person omnipotent is a dangerous choice, especially where setting is concerned. But the scenery descriptions are, at all times, elegant and brief, punctuated with the protagonist's opinions. Though I'm not as familiar with Victorian England as I would like, I felt like I was there, walking the streets alongside the characters as they moved through the story.

The mythology behind vampires, werewolves, and ghosts is quickly explained. And it's mercifully brief. From what little I know of the legends, I could see that Carriger stayed true to popular myths regarding these creatures. As far as I can tell, her only deviation from those legends is why vampires and werewolves are able to become supernatural beings: an excess of soul. Carriger explained this concept briefly, and tied it in to the fact that Miss Tarabotti's soulless state allows her to cancel out a vampire or werewolf's abilities.

To sum up, when I finished Soulless, I felt like I'd been introduced to a new world with infinite possibilities. I closed the book, eager to learn more about these characters' pasts and see where their lives would go next. I left entertained, and somehow, I felt as though I'd interacted with the story just as much as the characters had. All in all, I'd give this book an 8 out of 10.

So, if you haven't done it already, go buy these books. Now. After all, the more people who read them, the more books she'll write. And I want to see Carriger's works like up on my bookshelf for years to come.


  1. I trust your recommendations, and I've put it on the to-read list.

  2. Great review! I also love this book!

  3. I LOVED it! She's the first author I've found in several years who has inspired me this much.

  4. Well, I'll add it to my list. Can't wait.

  5. It's always great when an author pulls off a really difficult or interesting writing style like Butcher's first person (I don't know about anyone else but I think it's hard to do well). Sounds like an enjoyable read, I'll look into it.

  6. you lost me @ " ... accidentally kills a vampire ..."