Today, I'm kicking off a review of a series of books called The Parasol Protectorate subtitled; An Alexia Tarabotti Novel, with the first book; Soulless. I have reviewed series of books before on this blog, namely the Black Dagger Brotherhood, which is still ongoing and actually I'm not sure I've reviewed them all come to think of it!
But it's been awhile since I last read a series all in one go. I think this is because I have this habit of wanting to have all the books and being able to read them one after another. I think my brain finds it easier and I don't have to keep the memory of character, settings and plot details in my head for months or years as I wait for the next book/s to be published. Does anyone else do this too?
Anyway, I'm not sure how I found out about this novel, but I did read it close to the time it was published or within two years. I did enjoy it the first time I read it then upon finding out it was a series I had to collect the others. However, I just never got a round to reading them afterwards. Well, the time has come and I've started now and hopefully, got something of a time table to read them all in and review them!
The Parasol Protectorate novels are set in an alternative Victorian history where the supernatural has come to the surface and been mostly accepted. Alongside, this is is a bit of Steampunk and I say this because it features mostly in the background and in Soulless appears very little. Which is why if you are someone who's into the supernatural genre and wants to get into Steampunk then this series would be a good start. Or if you find Steampunk a little hard to get into for whatever reason and/or you are looking for a new Steampunk book to read then it's really worth a go.
The narrative is in third person and follows the heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, who is described as a half Italian spinster who has no soul, on a mission to find out where the lone vampires and werewolves have disappeared to. I really like Alexia, she is a great female character who doesn't seem to let the Victorian suppression of women get to her. She stands out above the rest and is seemingly happy with the fact she's been 'shelved' and won't ever marry. This gives her liberties which she wouldn't have otherwise, but it also leads into the situation she ends up in at the start of the novel.
Having sneaked off from a ball to have tea in the library, she is attacked by a vampire and accidentally kills him. She is saved by a werewolf, Lord Maccon, who then helps to cover the situation up. It turns out her mother, step-sisters and step-dad don't know she is soulless. In fact not even her best friend, Ivy, who has a very poor but funny choice in hats knows about it. Alexia then ends up helping to investigate why she was attacked as Lord Maccon is part of a BUR - Bureau of Unnatural Registry and it's part of his job. This all leads to the discover of a group of scientists who are experimenting on the supernatural.
There is a second plot line sees Alexia and Lord Maccon falling in love. I was a little worried that this would draw too much away from the main story, but it actually works well. They have a kinda cliched friendship were they don't seem to get on, but they actually enjoy annoying each other. Their interested and love for each other slowly comes though and I loved the scandalized (well, it would have been in the 1800's) scene were they are caught kissing by Alexia's family and have an argument about getting married. Which of course then does happen!
The plot is really well written, funny in many places and serious in others. I love the revealing of the mystery behind what is going on and it just keeps you reading on. The setting works really well too. It does feel like Victorian London and the description of all the places just lets you imagine this alternative history highly. The description of character and clothes is very well done too. I love all the dresses Alexia wears and every time Ivy shows up in a new hat which is often so ugly the other characters' reactions are just priceless.
Speaking of, the other characters are really good. They all seem to be written as if they were the main character and their dialogues work well. Lord Maccon is Scottish though he tries to sound more London, but I love how it comes through in small doses. His background is kinda kept in the dark, but I think this might appear in one of the other novels. The other characters also seem set up for more, but their development is good anyway.
The ending actually makes Soulless feel like a stand alone book. I was thinking there'd be a cliffhanger or lead into book two, but the ending is kind of closed. I actually like that as it makes me feel more satisfied about finishing it.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. I'd so recommend it to everyone, even if you are not big or the supernatural, or steampunk or history or romance as there feels to be something for everyone in this novel and even if you dislike all those genres the characters and plot are just really good.
Thanks for reading and next week I'll review book 2!