A slice of cake and afternoon tea – Gail Carriger’s Soulless (Parasol Protectorate 1)

Cover image of Gail Carriger's Soulless

Cover image of Gail Carriger's Soulless

I’ve started reading Gail Carriger‘s quite divine Alexia Tarabotti novels and currently leaving an insolent pup being thwacked by our decidedly annoyed hero with the parasol.

Anyhow, I’ve been meaning to catch up with these and circumstances finally allowed me to begin them and I do not want to them down. But I must do so temporarily…

We are introduced to Ms Tarraboti in Soulless when she is most rudely interrupted from enjoying an illicit slice of cake when she is attacked by a rogue vampire, a rove. To cover up her involvement in killing him she pretends to faint and be brought around by Lord Maccon’s BUR team. Maccon is  a werewolf and not terribly enamoured of the toothy ones. He does know of Ms Tarabotti’s secret –  that she is soulless and can neuter the supernatural and revert them to human form – and gads about after her like a young pup on heat despite his age.

In response to the attack, Alexia has various tea and cake driven meetings with the dandy Vampires and rough Werewolves to discover why there is a sudden influx of untrained, ill-mannered roves. As she does so, she reveals the truth which underlies the newly opened Hypocras Club, a fanatical group of human scientists bent on wiping out the supernatural through scientific means. Above all, they have the temerity to kidnap here whilst she is meeting with Lord Akeldama without offering her refreshments.

The Hypocras Club is a well observed view of Victorian male-dominated scientific rationality. They are so infused with what they believe is a just calling, that they cannot see their own monstrosity. Carriger hints at the pernicious ideas of secret societies guiding the British Empire and the deterministic view that science will solve these ills and damn the consequences. Clearly Carriger has fun with the clockwork octopuses and also the steampunk homunculus, or Golem, which she has to defeat (with some last minute aid from Adelkama when she slightly misunderstands his command).

She also takes apart the view of helpless woman as well as Alexia drives the novel forward with vim and vigour. Apart from initially refusing Lord Maccon (though, dear reader, she does marry him), Alexia is the one person who can navigate through all the layers of society. Whilst captured in the club, Mr MacDougall is concerned that she might not be able to cope with the truth as she is a load of noble breeding which Alexia plays up to get the truth from Mr Siemons. She is also accused of being a  bluestocking but only because she dares to take her own path rather than conforming to the societal standards which would make her most boring.

The Parasol Protectorate looks like it is going to be a fun revision of feminist Steampunk with plenty of cake. There is an edge of fantasy of manners with the dandy vampires reminding me of Oscar Wilde’s wit and Ms Tarabotti a decidedly Jane Austen wit.

Now, perhaps I should see what has happened to that werewolf, and Ms Carriger does promise dirigibles in this book.

Currently reading: Changeless

Further posts about Gail Carriger‘s books.

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2 Responses to A slice of cake and afternoon tea – Gail Carriger’s Soulless (Parasol Protectorate 1)

  1. Ellie says:

    I’ve got 3 of these books to read, they sound rather fun 🙂

  2. Iain says:

    Hi Ellie,

    You ought to read them as they are great fun and extremely well observed. I’ve had the first one sitting on my table since publication, started and popped out to get the other two which I finished yesterday. The fourth one is out in a couple of months time.

    All best,

    Iain

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