I read the most delightful book today. I love, love, love it when an author puts a new twist on a familiar story. When she does it with a completely original voice, I'm a fan for life.
SOULLESS is an urban fantasy. Like most urban fantasies, there are vampires, werewolves and a kick-ass heroine. Unlike most urban fantasies, SOULLESS is set in a Victorian England where vampires and werewolves have been seamlessly integrated into the nobility, and are, in fact, responsible for the rousing success of the British Empire. Instead of wielding guns and knives, the kick-ass heroine, an aging spinster who has been "on the shelf" for quite a while, wields a parasol. She's 26 (ancient for an unmarried woman), smart, assertive, and cursed with the tan complexion and prominent nose of her Italian father (deceased). Alexia Tarabotti is also soulless.
Vampires and werewolves have an abundance of soul. This is what allows them to survive the bite of a hive queen vampire or a werewolf. Soullessness is the counterbalance. When Alexia touches a vampire or werewolf, they return to their human state. Though Alexia is persona non grata with most of the supernatural set, one of her closest friends is Lord Akeldama, one of London's oldest vampires and gloriously, flamboyantly gay. She is also enmeshed in a very Jane Austen-y romance with Lord Conall Maccoon, Earl of Woolsey, and alpha of the werewolf pack.
The mystery that drives the story is fun, but the characters (with last names like Loontwill and HisselPenny) and Carriger's droll British style absolutely made the book for me. Simple details like Alexia describing her mother as "prone to wearing yellow and engaging in bouts of hysteria" had me chuckling. I laughed hysterically more than once. I'd love to quote some of the funniest lines, but they would be major spoilers. Go to the amazon link here and read the sample pages.
SOULLESS has everything I love in a book: smart writing, humor, mystery, romance, and voice. I highly recommend it. I devoured the book in a day. It's one of those stories where you can't wait to see how it ends, but you're sorry when it does. A sequel called CHANGELESS is coming out next month, and I'll be first in line to get my copy.