Soulless is set in a fantasy alternate Victorian era, with vampires and werewolves alongside airships and mysterious brass apparati. It deftly mashes the modern urban fantasy/paranormal romance into the Regency-style historical romance, adds a hefty dollop of whodunnit, and seasons it with steampunk atmosphere and a tiny dash of xenophobic horror.
I liked it a lot. I thought Carriger mostly did a good job of incorporating some old-time flavor into her prose while keeping it streamlined enough to appeal to the modern escapist reader, viz:
The hackney rattled through the darkened streets. Miss Tarabotti, mindful of her hat and hair, nevertheless drew down the window sash and stuck her head out into the night. The moon, three-quarters and gaining, had not yet risen above the building tops. Above, Alexia thought she could make out a lone dirigible, taking advantage of the darkness to parade stars and city lights before one last load of passengers. For once, she did not envy them their flight. The air was cool and probably unbearably chilly so high up; this was no surprise, as London was generally a city not celebrated for its balmy evenings. She shivered and closed the window.
although sometimes characters’ diction struck me as not believably Victorian, with the utterance, “Plus, they are scheduled to return at any moment,” the construction that felt most glaringly anachronous.
While one might criticize the characters for being thinly drawn, the plotting is exuberant. And I definitely give Carriger credit for not only adding a significant variation to her creatures-of-the-night variation, but also for incorporating a legendary element that’s not fantastically overexposed.
Soulless kept me absorbed enough that I was able to read it on the subway without getting motion sick. That doesn’t work with every book by a long shot.
needs more demons? no.