Around the web: Soulless cover art

Look familiar? I was surfing the web and discovered Clockwork Couture, A Fine Steampunk Clothier, and their photoshoot for the Victorian 2 piece Traveling Suit ($320) was used for the cover of Soulless by Gail Carriger: “A high Chinese colar and cuffs adorned with black lace, along with small matching fabric-covered buttons, accent the long-sleeved bodice of our 2 piece, khaki satin lined, taffeta suit which is completed by the full-length skirt with attached bustle and train.”

You can see more details of the umbrella in the original picture, but I love the color of the suit on the book cover, plus the darkening of the model’s skin because the main character, Alexia Tarabotti is supposed to have an Italian complexion. I also love the London background that Orbit books added. I reviewed Soulless over here: vox | wordpress | LJ

Anyway: cool. 🙂

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless caught my eye a couple of months ago when I saw the cover, but I really wanted to read it because of the blurb. When I found this book at BEA I was ALL over it, and with the number of entries for my Soulless giveaway, I wish I had more copies to give away, but alas I only have the one.

I was going to write this review and then shelve it till end of September, but a lot of copies of this were at BEA, so I expect reviews to show up pretty soon, and I’ve had a lot of people asking me how the book is!

Soulless comes out September 30th from Orbit books.

The Premise: Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster and twenty-six years old (she was officially put on the shelf at the early age of fifteen). The daughter of an Italian and well known for her modern sensibilities, headstrong personality, and interest in science, Alexia isn’t the typical young Victorian lady. She has a long nose, dark Italian skin, and loves to eat (treacle tarts are a favorite).  One night, Alexia attends a ball, and is dismayed to find that the host has provided NO refreshments. Taking matters into her own hands, she asks be served tea in the library. One thing leads to another and suddenly there’s a dead vampire on the library floor and Alexia has to fake a faint. The agents of BUR, headed by Lord Maccon (an irritable, scruffy, Scottish werewolf) aren’t fooled for a second, and she is asked questions regarding their investigation.  Vampires and werewolves are appearing where they shouldn’t be, and disappearing from where they should. Of course Alexia decides to do some investigating on her own, and drives Lord Maccon crazy in the process.

My Thoughts: Wow, this book was a lot of fun to read. The blurb is a spot-on indication of what you’ll find in the book – tongue in cheek stuff, a heroine who is a force of nature, and a romance thrown in.  The author calls the book an “urbane fantasy”, and from what I can see there’s an overlap of genres here. There are romantic elements, urban fantasy elements, a very Victorian setting, and a dash of Steampunk. I couldn’t help mentally hearing the words in a proper English accent. First, no one here says “parasol”, so I had to, and second because of the style of the language. There was even a nod to the old-fashioned in the way the chapters were titled (“Our Heroine Ignores Good Advice” is just one example).  Along with the writing, there are a lot of references to fashions, manners and day to day life of the Victorian time period.

The world here is our own, but Great Britain has had supernatural help to conquer so much of the planet. There are werewolves, vampires, and ghosts, with similar traits to what I’ve seen in other urban fantasy (such as banding together under one Alpha or hive ruler), but the criteria for a human to change into a supernatural is something new. This time the amount of soul a person has is a factor. Only people with an excess of soul can survive the change, and supernatural creatures are rare. Alexia is even rarer, she has no soul. This makes her a preternatural, a person whose touch negates the supernatural completely. I don’t think I’ve seen this before. I’ve read books where one character is immune to supernatural effects, but can’t do what Alexia does.  I like the idea.

The worldbuilding was well done and had enough complexity where I felt that while I was seeing and understanding a lot of it, there is still more to come, perhaps in later books. In particular I think the politics between the vampires, werewolves, and the crown has been touched upon but there is more to explore there.

There are a lot of amusing side characters in this book. Usually there’s one or two side characters I kind of like, but here I liked a lot of them, though they are almost caricatures. The poor best friend with horrible taste in hideous, flamboyant, hats, the gay vampire with his baroque furnishings and coterie of foppish young men, the stoic and capable butler, the list goes on, but it works very well. It’s a comedic ensemble cast (complete with straight men) that buttress our heroine and hero.

This book is also a romance. While this is Victorian England so no sex before marriage, there are serious shenanigans going on that are decidedly more modern than this era. Even knowing what a free spirit Alexia is, there are a few scenes where some artistic license takes place in terms of Alexia’s reactions to her love interest. This was a slightly less believable part of Alexia’s character, but we’re reading a book with werewolves and vampires here, so I didn’t dwell on it. The part that irritated me was the repetition of Alexia’s “flaws” which she and her family were concerned about: that Italian nose, dark complexion, and inability to be controlled. I’d prefer Alexia to have been less repetitive in worrying about these silly things, thinking no one wants to marry someone like that.

Overall: This book is going to be popular. It’s as fun as it looks, I promise you, and I love that this feels like something new. I wanted to pick it up as soon as possible whenever I had to put it down. There’s plenty of action, sly wit, and romance going on to keep the pages turning and I will be reading the second book, Changeless.

There’s an excerpt of Changeless at the back of Soulless, and I’ve already checked, but the release date hasn’t been announced yet.


Video of Gail Carriger at BEA (filmed by Ron Hogan)

Steampunk – the Next Big Thing?

Above artwork is “Steampunk” by John Coulthart

Is Steampunk the new trend in the fantasy genre? I’m beginning to see it everywhere I look. But what is it? The image above has tongue-in-cheek a formula Jeff VanderMeer came up with: Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot = Steampunk.

Some books to look out for:

  • I just read and reviewed (LJ / vox / wordpress) Dru Pagliassotti’s Clockwork Heart. She’s busy working on the second book tentatively titled Obstruction Currents. She has also been working on a third novel with the working title King’s Monster, but I don’t know if that is also steampunk.
  • Karin Lowachee is working on The Gaslight Dogs (she’s the author of an amazing science fiction trilogy Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird). I haven’t seen much about this one so it may be coming out later from orbit books:
    “Very different from her previous military science fiction novels, this is a Victorian era steampunk novel in the style of Philip Pullman taking us from the Arctic North to steeped rooftops of civilization and the savages to the east. (Fall/Winter 2009)”
  • Liz Maverick is working on Crimson and Steam, which should be out January 2010 and which is set in her Crimson city universe.
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy ParkerSteamed by Katie MacAlisterSoulless by Gail Carriger

  • Katie MacAlister is working on a Steampunk series that will have it’s first book out in 2010. Her website has this announcement: “I’ve just received the cover to Steamed, the first in a new series of Steampunk romances, which will be out February 2010. The cover isn’t quite finished (you can view a large version of it here), but you can get a sneak peek at it and the back cover copy to see what all the fuss is about. Fluff up your bustle, polish your pocket watch, adjust your goggles, and crank up the Abney Park! It’s steam time, ladies and gentlemen! ”
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber is coming out from Dorchester on 09/09/09 and has a lovely cover. The author calls it a “ghostly, gothic Victorian fantasy”. Looks promising. Link to the book trailer. The cover blurb:
    “What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death….”
  • Gail Carriger has a book out September from Orbit: Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate):Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.”
  • Meljean Brook has twittered about a steampunk book with pirates. Research reveals she’s got a new series in the works called the Iron Seas

The books coming out should be interesting. I see both authors with a background in romance and science fiction/fantasy coming into the same genre. I’m really looking forward to the results.

The Galaxy Express: Steampunk Romance Watch