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Timeless, by Gail Carriger

Title: Timeless (Parasol Protectorate #5)
Author: Gail Carriger
Year of Publication: 2012
Length: 386 pages
Genre: steampunk adventure
New or Re-Read?: New!
Rating: 4.5 stars
Spoiler Warning: For the series as a whole, Changeless-forward, really

I said in my review of Heartless that the Parasol Protectorate series just keeps getting better, and Timeless did not disappoint me. I think it’s the best of the series. All of the characters are handled well, Carriger’s descriptions are both vivid and precise, and her dialogue, as always, sparkles with wit and humour. Like the rest of the series, this is steampunk with a fine froth and a sense of humour. Timeless also continues the exploration of the political ramifications of the collision of the paranormal and the scientific, delving far back into he AU’s history as well as setting the stage for its future.

Timeless jumps two years forward from Heartless, two years that have been peaceful — well, as peaceful as anything is likely to get in the Maccon household, especially considering they live in a vampire’s closet so that said vampire can serve as adoptive father to two-year-old Prudence, who happens to be a metanatural. Born from her supernatural werewolf father and preternatural Alexia, Prudence possesses the capability to absorb a supernatural’s aspect — leaving said supernatural mortal until such time as Alexia can use her preternatural abilities to cancel everything out. It certainly makes life interesting — not least for their neighbours — but all in all, things seem to be sorting themselves out.

And then Alexia gets, by way of the local vampire queen, a summons to appear with her daughter in Alexandria (yes, the one in Egypt) before Matakara, the oldest vampire living. At the same time, Sidhaeg — Conall’s multi-great-granddaughter and Alpha of his old Scottish pack — shows up, looking for her missing Beta, who had been in Egypt on a mission for her. The Beta reappears, but gets murdered before he can get more than a few words out to Alexia. So Alexia packs up her family — and the Tunstells and their acting troupe — and heads out via steamer (werewolves being notoriously poor floaters). From there, the story whirls through a sequence of mishaps, supernatural political entanglements, and strange occurrences. The action clips along at a great pace, both in Alexandria and back at home, as the Maccons abroad and the wolf pack back at home both try to sort out the mystery of the God-Breaker Plague.

The really great thing here, which started to become prominent in Blameless and Heartless, is Carriger’s ability to not forget character development admist all the action. For a lot of the book, that really shines in Biffy and Lyall, though we do get a fair bit out of Alexia and Conall as well. Biffy’s swiftly becoming my favourite character in the whole series, really, because he goes through such a transformative journey from when we meet him to the end of this book. Without giving too much away, Carriger handles the various aspects of his personality and relationship dynamics really well, with a lot of tenderness and a lot of psychological awareness. She handles the expanding cast of characters without sacrificing any emotional realism, and she jumps back and forth between the two plotlines in a way that makes sure the reader never loses sight of what’s going on.

Carriger also does a nice job weaving multicultural elements into the story. I particularly like the “Drifters”, balloon-living nomads of the North African desert. We don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with them, but you get a sense of real cultural texture nonetheless. I love the idea of this herd of balloons, linked together by nets that the women and children use for social interaction. Her descriptions of steampunk Alexandria and Upper Egypt are a great blend of imaginative and clearly well-researched, and the cast of extras that the Maccon/Tunstell party meets there adds even more colour and excitement to the series.

I also commend Carriger for her ability to portray a toddler character — a notoriously difficult challenge in writing, and one that many authors seem to avoid at all costs. I’m convinced the difficulties in writing such young characters is the reason most happy-ever-afters end at the altar, or at least with the birth. But Carriger strikes it perfectly with Prudence. She has the right size vocabulary to reflect the state where vocalisation hasn’t quite caught up to cognitive reasoning; Prudence understands more than she can express, and this does seem to frustrate her at times. She also manages to make Prudence charming without being saccharine, another admirable feat; Prudence demonstrates the right balance of adorability, manic impulse, and short attention span for a two-year-old. She’s also part of the story without overwhelming it, which I appreciate; too often when series do incorporate kids, it becomes all about them. Alexia’s attitude goes a long way towards keeping this from becoming a trite or obnoxious trope.

I’ve said throughout the series that Carriger is at her best when she’s writing for herself, with her own style, rather than emulating other genres, and in Timeless, she seems to have trusted that impulse entirely. There are no moments of narrative awkwardness, where the story feels like something else has collided into it from the outside; rather, we are treated to the continuing adventures of Alexia et al in Carriger’s own witty voice. It’s a delight. My only criticism is that the denouement ties up a little too quickly. I could’ve used a bit more exploration of the new constructs our characters find themselves in at the end of the series, about how they’re going to move forward from here on out. Ultimately, it just ended way too soon; I could have happily spent a lot more time with these characters.

Timeless is an adventure story that manages to be lighthearted and emotionally tugging at the same time. Carriger gives us characters we can care about, but without ever taking herself too seriously. The series as a whole has fantastic energy, superb wit, and a sparkle that I’ve yet to find in other steampunk literature. The Parasol Protectorate series is just plain fun. I’m tremendously sorry to say goodbye to this series, but I’m delighted that Carriger’s world will be continuing in the YA Finishing School Series and the adult Parasol Protectorate Abroad series. The former will take place some twenty-five years earlier in the AU’s history; the latter is due to feature our Prudence, all grown up and taking on the world. Both are due out in 2013, and I eagerly anticipate their arrival.

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Heartless, by Gail Carriger

Title: Heartless (Parasol Protectorate #4)Heartless
Author: Gail Carriger
Year of Publication: 2011
Length: 374 pages
Genre: steampunk paranormal mystery
New or Re-Read?: Brand new!
Rating: 4 stars and a bit of an extra twinkle
Spoiler Warning: Quite active, not just for Heartless, but for the end of Changeless up through Blameless.

This  may be my favourite of the Parasol Protectorate series thus far. The wit is sharp, the action crisp, and the plot tight, all of which make for a highly enjoyable read.

In Heartless, Alexia receives a message from a ghost indicating that someone is planning to kill the queen. Naturally, Alexia does not see her considerably advanced pregnancy as any reason not to get to the bottom of the plot — not any more than her move into Lord Akeldama’s second closet should disrupt her affairs. (Why has she taken up residence with the new vampire potentate? Well, it appears to be the way to get the Westminster Hive to stop trying to kill her and her infant-inconvenience, which was really starting to become a considerable distraction to her). Investigating the matter takes Alexia deep into the worlds and secrets of vampires, werewolves, and ghosts alike, forcing her to put brainpower and sheer stubbornness together until she uncovers all the pieces of the puzzle.

I quite liked the twists and turns in the plotline. I was able to guess enough of them to feel clever, but not so many that it felt predictable, which is really the perfect balance in a thriller. The red herrings aren’t just thrown out for the sake of being there; they lead down paths of their own, vitally important to the characters and to the overall series, even if they’re not tied to the main mystery of this book. I appreciate that, because few things are so frustrating in a story as a loose end dangling out there without payoff. We also get to see the enmeshing of supernatural politics in thorough detail, picking up some of the threads from Changeless (probably my second-favourite of the series).

This book also uses technological elements a little more deftly than previous books in the series have. On the whole, the Parasol Protectorate series is more paranormal-heavy than techno-heavy, but Heartless weaves mechanical porcupines and the increasingly fearsome inventions of Madame Lefoux more neatly into the rest of the story. They feel more integrated, less like window-dressing and more like real facets of Carriger’s alternate universe. And there’s a lot to be said for the mental image of an actress walking a mechanical porcupine on a leash down the middle of a busy London street.

What I liked best about Heartless, though, was how much we got to explore the emotions and the psychological landscapes of the various characters — Lyall, Ivy, Genevieve, Akeldama, all of them get new revelations, new layers, and new facets. Alexia’s explorations, as she attempts to get to the bottom of the threat against the queen, unveil a lot of personal history. My favourite of these is Lyall’s — he’s such a perfect Beta, and in Heartless we get to see more of just what he’s done to hold his pack together with both, er, paws. Alexia thinks of Lyall as someone who no one would remember as being part of a group, except that, because of him, the group stays together — that’s a powerful skill and an incredibly valuable person to have around. Carriger also didn’t disappoint when it came to poor Biffy, Akeldama’s former drone who had, rather unfortunately, to face eternity as a werewolf instead of a vampire as he’d intended. His struggle is poignant (although not without its touches of humour, when Biffy comes to his senses after destroying wallpaper or silk breeches), and it’s a nice exploration of some of the consequences that the supernatural set faces from their actions. These character explorations — emotionally and psychologically real and satisfying ,without ever losing the effervescent tone of the book — are some of the best bits.

Add to all of this Carriger’s usual quick wit and frothy sense of irreverence, and you’ve got a thoroughly compelling read. Some of my favourite bits are the one-liners that she slips into the narrative, casual snippets which are so absurd or so sharp that they’re laugh-out-loud funny. Carriger recently mentioned on her blog (and has apparently mentioned before, though as a newcomer to the series, I hadn’t heard it before) that each of the books in the Parasol Protectorate series has been in mimicry of a particular style. Soulless was an emulation of Austen-esque early romance novels (which explains, at least, the far-too-saccharine prose of the first book), Changeless of Gothic tales, Blameless of travel-adventure novels, and Heartless of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. And it isn’t that Carriger doesn’t do these emulations well (although in Soulless I found it more a detraction than anything) — it’s that I wish she’d just trust her own style more. Timeless, out next year, is due to be the last in the series (and, judging by the cover, an Egyptology expedition), and while I’ll be quite sad to see Alexia and all the rest go, I’ll also be hoping that Carriger’s next project will showcase her own style more, rather than these experiments with genre. As I said in my review for Soulless — she’s at her best when her wit shines through.

Overall, I recommend Heartless as strongly as the rest of the series — Alexia’s story just keeps getting better. These books are inventive, intriguing, and just plain fun. They embody a lightheartedness, a willingness not to take themselves seriously, that I think the steampunk genre can really benefit from — I’d love to see more like this, and I can’t wait to keep following Carriger’s writing, hopefully for many years to come.

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Blameless by Gail Carriger

Title: Blameless (Parasol Protectorate Book #3)Blameless Gail Carriger
Author: Gail Carriger
Year of Publication: 2010
Length: 355 pages
Genre: steampunk paranormal romance
New or Re-Read?: New
Rating: 4 stars
Spoiler Warning: Not only for Blameless but for Changeless. Do NOT read this review unless you’ve read Changeless.

Seriously. Unless you want to be spoiled for Changeless, stop reading.

Okay. (Yes, taking up space so people can scroll away).

Blameless opens just about exactly where Changeless left off, give or take a couple of weeks. With Conall in a foaming rage about her supposed infidelity, as evidenced by her supposedly impossible pregnancy, Alexia flees his house to return to the less-than-warm bosom of her family. When word gets out about her indelicate state, however, Alexia faces censure from the Queen and shame from Society. In a very short amount of time, she’s gone from overlooked to quite prominent to entirely ostracized. Fortunately, Alexia doesn’t give so much of a fig for Society; she mostly seems to find its disapproval an inconvenience (which is, incidentally, how she refers to the fetus growing inside her).

So, Alexia takes to the Continent, partly to avoid murderous vampires, partly to escape her alarmingly empty-headed family. No bets on which would prove ultimately more fatal. As in Changeless, she has a traveling party with her, but this time it’s a far more high-functioning crowd: her father’s erstwhile dogsbody Floote, clever inventor Madame Lefoux, and former Woolsey pack claviger Tunstell. They end up in Italy, land of the super-religious Templars, hoping that their religious tomes will hold some clue to the nature of preternaturals and an explanation for this unexpected pregnancy.

And they do. We learn a lot about preternaturals, both in Italy and along the way. We learn some various theories about how they interact with supernaturals, about their place in the cosmos, and we see that the Templars treat Alexia rather like an infectious plague, in fact considering her a demon (or, rather, daemon, but I have trouble spelling it that way thanks to His Dark Materials where that’s something completely different). The metaphysics here are really quite fascinating, if you like that sort of thing (which I do), and some of the Continental scientists are pretty excellent satires of Victorian-era medicine. The hysteria, the casual sexism, the bizarre theories and even more bizarre solutions — it’s a nice bit of parody. And kudos to Carriger for taking her story out of England. So much steampunk stays firmly rooted in the U.K., so it was nice to sojourn elsewhere. I wish, though, that the rest of the world felt as fleshed-out as her Britannia does. Bits of it felt rather slapdash. The Templars, particularly, feel more like an amalgamation of stereotypes than a well-thought-out alternate universe incarnation — which is strange, considering how detailed Carriger’s historical and sociological divergences usually are. The Templars come off feeling a bit villain-of-the-week, without enough nuance or veracity to make them feel like a true, tangible threat. The whole Italy plot is also awfully, well, predictable. Considering what we do know about the fanatical Templars, it comes as exactly no surprise when they stop playing nice and imprison Alexia. Likewise, I don’t know if Carriger meant for Channing’s identity to be a mystery or not, but it was pretty much clear as day — he disappears from England on some vitally important mission, and meanwhile in France and Italy, this pure white werewolf is constantly saving Alexia just in the nick of time? Not much of a shock. I could’ve done with a nice red herring there.

The best parts of this book, though, are actually back in England. I always liked Professor Lyall before, but we never saw enough of him for him to really take as a fave for me. In this book, though, he’s just magnificent. With Lord Maccon drinking himself into oblivion, Lyall has to step up to hold the Woolsey pack together with both, er, paws. I do love a good Beta. His dry wit and no-nonsense behaviour shows remarkably well in Blameless. Lyall not only has to defend against challengers and attempt to knock sense into Conall, but he also ends up investigating the disappearance of Lord Akeldama. It’s that last twist which actually leads to a fantastic subplot: the accidental transformation of Biffy, formerly a vampire drone, into a werewolf. He doesn’t get a lot of time to react to this in this book — and neither does Lord Akeldama, nor do his new packmates — but I imagine it will be a prominent subplot in Heartless, and I’m looking forward to it. Carriger’s put in a creative twist that I definitely wasn’t expecting.

Like other readers, I felt like the reconciliation between Alexia and Conall was a bit too pat. For as feisty as Alexia is, I rather expected more from her than a few half-hearted protests, a few more sniffles, and then open arms. Love can make up for a lot, but considering just how awful he was to her, I was rather hoping to see a more psychologically satisfying resolution to the conflict. As it was, it sort of felt like Carriger just needed the plot to be able to move on, so she squeezed the reconciliation in where she could crowbar it. I know that Carriger aims for light-hearted fare, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all — but there’s also nothing wrong with taking a moment to let the emotions breathe. It would be a nice contrast to the predominant frivolity.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book, as I’ve enjoyed the others in the series. It’s a quick and entertaining read. I’ve already pre-ordered Heartless, which comes out at the end of the month.

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Changeless, by Gail Carriger

Title: ChangelessChangeless Gail Carriger (Parasol Protectorate, Book #2)
Author: Gail Carriger
Year of Publication: 2010
Length: 374 pages
Genre: steampunk paranormal romance
New or Re-Read?: New
Rating: a very strong 4 stars
Spoiler Warnings: The first part of this entry will be spoiler-free; however, there will be a spoiler-full portion at the end, so I can talk about the important bits that go into Blameless.

Well, Carriger did not disappoint me. Changeless is a delightful book, and while it’s not perfect, it definitely improves on Soulless. The twee elements are definitely toned down here — the narrative voice didn’t aggravate me nearly as much as in the first book. Carriger’s stopped trying to convince the reader that she can emulate Victorian styles and is letting far more of her natural wit show through, and the book is much better for it.

The plot in this book is more a true mystery. A plague of humanization has incapacitated supernaturals, first in London, then moving up the Isle and all the way into Scotland. Alexia, charged by the Queen to investigate just this sort of thing, treks northward, with a most unusual party in tow: her beyond-bratty half-sister Felicity, her feather-headed friend Ivy, an excitable actor-turned-claviger called Tunstell, and a crafty, cross-dressing French inventor, Madame Lefoux.

Can I just say? I adore Genevieve Lefoux. She’s just the sort of alternate strong female character I was hoping for throughout Soulless. She’s warmer, more affectionate, and more charming than Alexia, which makes them excellent foils for each other. I also love Carriger’s willingness to let her characters have alternate sexualities — between Akeldama and his drones and then Lefoux’s proclivities, it’s quite refreshing. Yes, Madame Lefoux doesn’t just eschew feminine frippery in favour of well-tailored male clothing, she’s also a lesbian. I find myself hoping that Genevieve will eventually get to have her way with Alexia, who does seem to get a frisson of excitement out of their interactions. Probably not likely, but still something I can hope for, and if not in canon… well, there’s always fanfic. 😉

I love that we got to see more of werewolf dynamics in this book, and that some of the pack rules are explained in more detail. And I also do get that Alpha female I was hoping for — Sidheag is quite a treat. Irascible and prickly, yet somehow likeable at the same time. I hope we’ll see more of her in the future — I feel like there’s a decent setup there, with Conall having re-established contact with his old pack, and with her, after all, being his multi-great grand-daughter. There’s potential in her.

The plot rolls along at a good place, with some exciting twists and turns. If some of them stretch credulity a bit… well, it is paranormal fiction, so that’s probably to be expected. Carriger really has drawn the details of her world quite well, from the basic rules that her alternate universe operates under to the visuals of places, people, and things. I suspect the overly-elaborate discussions of clothing might be trying to the patience of some readers, but I, with my affection for Victoriana garb and my aspirations as a costumer, quite enjoy them.

I think my major criticism of this book is Ivy. She was frivolous but not a complete idiot in Book One, but she’s hazardously dim in Book Two. It’s a little unbelievable first that someone could be that dense, but even more than Alexia would remain friends with such a person. It went past my ability to suspend disbelief, and it really pressed my patience. She went from character to caricature, and it wasn’t becoming.

My other complaint is that I wanted more sizzle out of the sex scenes in this book. They were a little repetitive — Alexia wants to talk, Conall gets handsy, Alexia pushes him away long enough to talk, Conall eventually prevails, curtains fall over the scene. I sort of feel like Carriger didn’t quite use the irresistible passion they supposedly have for each other quite well enough. I’d love to be shown, not told of, more of the heat.

Those two complaints are pretty minor, though, and overall, Changeless excited me so much that I had to start Blameless immediately upon finishing, even though I’ve intended to be alternating between my various reading projects. Why the imperative? Well… That has to do with the emotional cliffhanger of an ending. Alexia finds herself in an awfully tight spot, and how she deals with it gets held off till the next book.

Warning: Spoilers Beyond This Point

First off, the solution to the mystery — Alexia was kind of an idiot to trust Angelique so blindly. I mean, seriously, how did she never suspect her of misdoings? For someone who’s supposed to be so practical and level-headed, she had an enormous blind spot there. I suppose that might be a commentary on Victorian class structure and the ignorance of the uppers as to the doings of their social lessers… but I somehow suspect not.

The big thing, though, that requires the spoiler warning? Alexia is in, to put this Victorian-ly, in a delicate condition. And oh.my.goodness I am so pleased with how Carriger is handling the pregnancy. Because I guessed very early on that Alexia had, somehow, gotten knocked up. And honestly, that disappointed me a little. It was so predictable, so stereotypical, such a pedestrian progression for a romance series to take. Married in book one, pregnant in book two, baby in book three. I was feeling a little let-down.

And then Conall reacted.

And this is why I was so anxious to get along to Blameless. There’s no baby yet, she’s still pregnant in the third (and, I believe, fourth) book, so Carriger’s not rollicking along to that particular point. And it isn’t happy-ever-after. It’s exactly the opposite. Conall, under the belief that werewolves can’t procreate (being, technically, dead), accuses Alexia of infidelity, and the novel ends with the two of them severely estranged. I must say, he’s kind of an idiot — I’d assumed from the beginning that, since he’s returned to humanity when she touches him, he’d likely be restored to potency as well.

So! There’s that deliciously harrowing emotional entanglement, and I’m on to Blameless, over a hundred pages in already, actually, and quite excited about it.

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Soulless, by Gail Carriger

Title: Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, Book #1)Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Year of Publication: 2009
Length: 357 pages
Genre: steampunk paranormal romance
New or Re-Read?: New, on a friend’s recommendation
Rating: 4 stars

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. And I wasn’t expecting to. I’d heard enough mixed things that I approached it with some trepidation. But I was very, very pleasantly surprised. That doesn’t mean the book is without its flaws — but, as I’ve noted before, a book doesn’t necessarily have to be technically superior to be enjoyable. And there’s much to like about Soulless.

Alexia Tarabotti has no soul. Apart from leaving her little creativity in her dress (and perhaps making her over-sensitive to flamboyant fashion sense in others), it doesn’t really affect her daily life. It’s just a fact of her being. It also gives her the power to neutralize supernaturals, who lose their powers in her presence, and this fascinating ability has started to attract interest from unexpected quadrants.

I love the approach to the supernatural here, because it’s so refreshingly new. But not in a Twilight-I’m-going-to-ignore-all-folklore-and-history-and-just-make-up-my-own-crap-based-on-whatever-I-think-is-cool kind of way. In a very clever, thoughtful kind of way. Carriger has decided to attribute the phenomenal success of the British Empire to supernatural beings – primarily vampires and werewolves. (I dare to hope she’ll introduce the Fae in some later book, but that might be a wild desire on my part; I’ve just always thought the Fae must’ve had something to do with Britain’s inexplicable dominance). Her explication is that supernaturals have, in their lives, an excess of soul, and that allows them to become something else after death rather than just progressing on into the usual afterlife. (What this implies for Alexia’s eventual fate, I’m not sure). In the typical manner of Victorian Brits, folk in this world are experiencing a scientific desire to pick this concept apart and figure out exactly what it is that gives one person more soul (or less) than another. The crux of conflict comes when not everyone’s willing to explore the matter through appropriate and genteel methods.

I think what I really enjoy is the focus on werewolves. Too many books favour the vampiric side of things, and I personally find vampires so much less interesting (all due apologies to Lord Akeldama, who is, I must admit, a real treat). I’m a hot-blooded pack animal by nature, so my sympathies have always lain with werewolves among supernatural creatures. Lord Maccon, pack Alpha and head of the British agency supervising supernaturals, is a delight — a hot-tempered, snarling, Scottish delight. The werewolves make the book for me, because they introduce, well, chaos and mayhem. The wolves are just a little bit bonkers, and I find that tremendously appealing. It’s a lot more interesting than the emotional reticence of vampires. I do like that we get some variation with the vamps as well, though. Lord Akeldama might stray a bit too far towards the Sassy Gay Friend stereotype, but he’s still pretty damn entertaining, and it’s nice to see a different kind of vampire. His drones are also pretty hilarious.

The main reason this gets four stars instead of five is because, particularly in the first half of the book, the writing style is a little too precious. The author’s too self-consciously imitating/parodying a pseudo-Victorian style, to the point that it sometimes drowns out her storytelling and her wit. Which is a shame, because once that haze gets cleared away, the wit is really quite good. Towards the end of the book, it’s like Carriger forgot to be twee and just wrote, and the book is so much the better for it. I’m hoping that improvement carries on into the next book, but I worry she’ll open with more of the same affectations.

It was also a bit annoying to be constantly reminded of Alexia’s age and appearance. I’m not sure precisely why Carriger feels compelled to drive home that she’s Italian, dark-complected, and has a big nose about once a chapter, but she does. (I also find the cover model choice a bit strange, as she looks nearer forty than Alexia’s twenty-six). I’m also hoping for some more strong female characters in the mix (a nice Alpha female werewolf heading another pack, perhaps?). Right now, there’s something vaguely chauvinistic in how Carriger portrays every other woman in the series as empty-headed, status-obsessed, twittering idiots (with the exception, perhaps, of a vampire queen who, we can presume, will prove a villainess later down the line). I know it’s the Victorian era, but it’s also, y’know, fiction, and fantasy at that. There’s room in that world for more than one intelligent, capable female. Carriger could take some cues from several popular romance authors (I’m thinking of JQ and Kleypas, in particular) on how to build a network of strong, smart women, rather than piling all feminine worth into one figure. Alexia needs a friend who’s on her level. If the only way to make her special is to make all the other women around her vapid and useless… well, you don’t have much of a heroine on your hands. And the thing is, I think Alexia is strong enough as a character already — Carriger just doesn’t seem to be giving her own creation quite enough credit.

In general, Soulless is a mash-up of genres. Judging from some other reviews I’ve read, this has been a detracting point for some readers, who were expecting an adventure, or a romance novel, or a paranormal urban fantasy, and got some of that and also a lot of other things they didn’t expect. It’s made other reviews interesting to read, as some deride the lack of romance and others complain about the overabundance of it. For me, it’s an attraction. I like genre mash-ups and stories which defy easy categorisation. For the first two-thirds of the book, the steampunk element is quite lightly handled. It’s really more a paranormal romance for the duration, with a bit of steamy flavouring; the more distinctly steampunk elements come in towards the end, with the technologies at play. I sort of wish this had been more prominent throughout, but I suspect we’ll be seeing more of it in later books.

Overall, I enjoyed Soulless and I’m looking forward to Changeless, the next book in the series. The premise of The Parasoal Protectorate is intriguing and engaging, and I think many of the problems in Soulless may be those of a first novel. I hope the twee elements will get toned down, and I hope the cast of characters will expand to include some more girls who aren’t complete ninnies. Carriger certainly has room to improve, but she’s set a solid enough foundation that I have faith in her abilities.

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