Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: Science Fiction, Steampunk, Supernatural Fiction, Fantasy, Vampires, Werewolves, Romance
Summary: Alexia, a soulless, preternatural spinster living in Victorian England, gets caught up in a plot involving disappearing Werewolves and Vampires after killing a stray vampire in self-defense. Can she figure it out before she herself disappears?
Review: To fully explain why I disliked this novel the following review contains massive spoilers.
You’ve been warned.
Take the most predictable and stereotypical plots of multiple genres (romance, steampunk, supernatural, science fiction, etc.), add shallow, stereotypical characters and mix it up with banal dialogue and you get one massively cliché novel, Soulless.
I found this book on the top of a few Stempunk lists so I was very excited to get my hands on it. I thought that such a much loved book with a strong heroine and corsets just couldn’t go wrong. I ended up being very disappointed. The characters are watered down and shallow. The romance (I think I may have to give up my girl card, I don’t seem to get along with this genre very well) storyline turned from hate to love so quickly it left my head spinning.
Parts of the last one-third of the novel actually contained some superficial social commentary regarding hatred and fear of the “other” (an outgroup), even though this outgroup was politically accepted, had political power and the haters seemed to be in the minority (but of course the commentary barely scratched the surface and left this issue unexplored). Aside from those moments of interest, most of the novel was spent on fashion (or lack of), manners (or lack of), food (or lack of), trite romance, and an attempt at humor that, aside from a few instances, failed miserably.
Additionally, this novel has a frustrating way of repeating itself. We do not need to be told over and over and over and over again that Alexia is a spinster, has large breasts (and nice curves), considers herself to be superior to other “silly” women (but really has low self-esteem), hates gossipers unless she is the one doing the gossiping, thinks Ivy wears ugly hats, etc.
Alexia, the main character, is unimaginative. She is Cinderella-like and comes along with two “silly” step-sisters and a “sillier” mother. And of course in the end she gets the prince, ahem, I mean the Alpha male werewolf (how more romance novel cliché can one get?). She isn’t the only two-dimensional character. Lord Akeldama is a complete stereotype of a flamboyantly gay man. The leading man, Lord Maccon (which makes me think of bacon every time I see his name), a stereotypical alpha male (literally), is overprotective/possessive, wishes violence on those who want to hurt his love, and has terrible manners (very similar qualities to frat boys… the romance storyline is similar to those romantic comedies where the popular, muscular, sporty guys fall in love with the geek girls who wear hideous glasses and weird clothes –and therefore are considered ugly- but really are Hollywood gorgeous).
Also, the scientists here are all stupid. They publish writings (apparently) in scientific journals on the excess or lack of soul and yet no one has defined what ‘soul’ means. How do they know that an excess causes supernatural beings and lack causes preternatural beings is anyone’s guess (if you can’t define it then you can’t measure it, science 101). The author decides to push science even more and starts talking about a disease shared through blood but nothing that makes sense even if we suspend everything we know about science of our universe (since this is an obviously different reality) and just refer to logic. Additionally, Alexia tells them it takes an hour for her “powers” to kick in (during a part where they want to study her powers after she gets kidnapped). As opposed to being good scientists and wanting to observe this phenomenon, they throw her in a cell with a violent werewolf and leave them alone (first, they believe their captive-uh, all captives lie- and second, why would they not want to observe a phenomena they know nothing about for the first time –terrible, terrible approach to science by so-called scientists). Of course this isn’t about science; the sole purpose is to get Alexia alone in a cell with a naked Lord Maccon (*produces eye roll worthy of Ianto Jones*).
On another page, this supposingly independent, strong woman (as the author describes her) states she would be fine being stashed away in the countryside with her “library and a nice big bed” by the male love interest. My mouth hung open in shock. Uh… I must have re-read that part a few times because I really couldn’t believe it actually said that! It doesn’t actually happen but… she thought being a kept woman sounded like a good idea (*hits head on desk, repeatedly*). By this point I abandoned the book for a few weeks before starting reading again.
The only character even remotely interesting was the ‘evil scientist’ (even if he was an idiot) but he was still shallowly drawn, a plot device to get the two characters together romantically during a dangerous situation. I would have been more interested in seeing how he came to hate this ‘outgroup,’ what had motivated him to pursue his path. And we never found out what those stupid brass octopuses symbolized after they were mentioned time and time again.
This book is very much loved by so many people and maybe I just may have completely missed the point but I just couldn’t get into it; actually it felt like my IQ dropped by a standard deviation by the time I was done. In the end, I finished the novel because it was a light read and I try to never leave a book unread but surely I will not be reading anything else written by this author.