I have just finished reading, Soulless, by Gail Carriger. (Full disclosure as regular readers here know, I personally know Ms. Carriger so take that for what it is worth in this review.)
Soulless is a difficult book to define by genre. It has elements of Romance, Steam-punk, historical fiction, and horror all thrown together in its both complex and straightforward plot. I am not normally drawn to paranormal fiction, particularly what I call Rock-And Roll Vampires. I prefer my vampires to be curse monster, hellspawn that just cry out for a good staking, but I recognize that I am in the minority with that viewpoint. Romances also in general do not work for me and I have never read a steam-punk book. (The closest I have come before with steam-punk was the TV series The Wild Wild West.) So this book was not one I planned on reading.
However as I followed Gail’s blog about the selling and publication of the story I became more interested. So when the novel was released I purchased a copy for my sweetie-wife and I to read.
It was a fun and fast read. Gail has done a wonderful job at world building. I read the novel as I was doing the heavy lifting for my own new novel and because of that I think I watched her world building a little more closely than I might have otherwise. Gail has a neat solution to the problem often ignore in vampire fiction, namely, why aren’t we up to our armpits in vampire and werewolves? Frankly if it was so easy to sire new vampires and werewolves they would be worse than zombies in terms of overrunning the world. In addition to solving that problem, she made it part of her integral plotting. The work builds, generally seamlessly, on itself to create a world that is utterly believable, with characters that flow naturally from their environment and yet are unique and memorable (that is not an easy trick, my friends).
There’s enough romance to satisfy the ‘shippers out there, enough werewolves and vampires to make the supernatural fans happy, and action and adventure to carry the rest of us along on a thrilling ride that does not slow down. Let me tell you this woman knows how to pace a story.
The novel, however, is not without its flaws. There was a bit of cavalry action that was not as well established as it should have been. (At least for my tastes and that’s all any reviewer can really speak to.) Also there wasn’t enough of a cost paid by the heros at the end of the book as I would have liked. (But then again I am the person who thinks more of the Fellowship should have died during the War of The Ring than just poor Boromir.)
These are small flaws and I have thrown books written by far more established authors across the room for the sins of bad writing. There is no bad writing in Soulless and I will be buying the sequel Changeless next year.