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Steampunk Classics: Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger — Image from Wikipedia

This charming 2009 book by Gail Carriger (pen name of Tofa Borregaard, a more interesting name in my opinion) has an intriguing premise. Its protagonist is a woman with no soul. Unlike Bart’s nightmarish experience on The Simpsons , her lack of a soul doesn’t seem to be a problem. The main effect of her condition is to neutralize the powers of any magical creature she touches. This is a useful ability since vampires and werewolves are plentiful in this fictional version of Victorian London. I myself would quibble with the book’s classification as steampunk since its main focus is magic and the supernatural. The titular protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti, is a spinster who is thrust into the middle of a mystery in which prominent high society vampires are disappearing. She is also courted by Lord Cornall Maccon, an aristocratic werewolf and employee of the government’s registrar of supernatural beings. The book does a great job of portraying Victorian society with its complex mores and social restrictions. As for the steampunk element, there’s a climactic scene which involves an attack by a clockwork automaton. It wasn’t critical to the story, however, which made me wonder whether this was inserted to take advantage of the steampunk genre classification. Not that I had a problem with that; I did find the book enjoyable. Though it’s lighter on action and heavier on relationships than many steampunk books, I would still recommend it for anyone interested in works of alternate history. Soulless is the first of a series of Victorian fantasy books, including Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless.


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