Monday, March 14, 2011

Steampunk Soul Sucking Good Time!

A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves and Parasols. 

There is something about parnormal books.
I think, in a way, it allows us to infuse imagery to the mystery we find in the world.

And then, there is steampunk.
Steampunk is this growing movement that is one parts magic, one part science and all parts creative genius. It allows the imagination to wonder and create new landscapes for dialogue and action.

Now, fuse the two.
Add parasols, treacle tart and very uptight, Victorian-era mannerisms.

What do you have?

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?
I saw this book cover on one of the book bloggers I follow, just a few months ago, before Christmas holidays. I saw the straight backed woman in the shiny purple dress with the parasol and the bright hot pink title and thought to myself: Oh dear, I think I shall have to have that. Then I read that synopsis, and was like: Must. Have. Now.

So I typed it into the Store Locator for Indigo and wouldn't you know? The city where I live while in school had no copies (I am half convinced the population of this city is predominantly illiterate though, unfortunately) but as luck would have it - my favourite place int he world - the World\s Biggest Book Store on Yonge in Toronto did! And I was going home for Christmas! Lucky me! :)

Unfortunately, I only got to it during Reading Week in February - the whole time, this cover and the synopsis plaguing my mind with absurd teasers that left me so frustrated. I was mildly worried that I was building up the anticipation too much, and so when I started, I was pleasantly and instantly surprised to see:

Miss Alexia Tarabotti was not enjoying her evening. Private balls were never more then a middling amusements for spinsters, and Miss Tarabotti was not the type of spinster who could garner even that much pleasure from the event. To put the pudding in the puff: she had retreated to the library, her favourite sanctuary in any house, only to happen upon an unexpected vampire.
She glared at the vampire.
For his part, the vampire seemed to feel that their encounter had improved his ball experience immeasurably. For there she sat, without escort, in a low necked ball gown. 
Never-you-mind the awesomness that is the title of the chapter - but right away you get the sense you're in Victorian England - the heroine is calm, cool collected and so stuffed full of manners that she cannot even wonder at the oddity of the fact that an errant vampire wheedled his way into the library before thinking of his cheap clothes, disheveled appearance and bad manners.

But even though the story sometimes walks along these tangental lines of mannerisms and fashions, it is by no means a frilly read. Instead, the characters are well developed, and they get more complex as the layers are peeled off, the general sense of which being that the reader knows very little of this new world.

And it is definitely a new world - which is probably my most favourite thing about this book: it's new. Like, entirely new. Sure, there are vampires, werewolves, ghosts, the British, disdain for Italians (and all foreigners), a Scientific society, dirigibles, Hyde Park and special powers - but it's the way these single elements are put together and assembled that makes this a wholly novel novel!

Let me explain a little about this world: This is a world on the brink of science as we understand it. And as such, the dark ages are over and the supernaturals of the world have been unmasked and given calling cards to all the great parts of being out in the ton. But how is it that these types exist? Well, it is theorized early on - they have an excess of soul. Yes, soul.

As for Miss. Tarabotti ... well, she doesn't. She's a preternatural - or a soul sucker, in Vampire vernacular. That means that she has very little or no soul - it's never really determined - and so she would never be able to survive a transformation into any of the supernatural classes (of which there are three: Vampire, Werewolf and Ghost). But this does give her some cool abilities - well, a cool ability. None of the Supernatural's abilities work when they come into contact with her. So that Vampire in the library? Won't be able to take a chunk out of her neck.

Of course, that just means that when Alexia is in danger - it really is a big Bad. And isn't she lucky that she has the sexiest BUR - that is, Bureau of Unnatural Registry - agent, Lord Maccon, who is Earl, Scottish and Werewolf. And super sexy.

The tension between Alexia and Lord Maccon is one part comical and one part endearingly sexy - they are always at odds with one another, he being a traditionalist (and yet, such a free thinker) and she being a blue stocking. Of course, there is always the problem of her constantly getting into trouble with things, and him being the agent on duty to get her out of it, and then there is the fact that he is Scottish and thus only barely civilized.

The jewels of this book are the points of humour that are so well placed that you cannot miss them and relish each one. There is nothing safe - the Scots and Italians get a wollop through the book, then the mannerisms (sometimes absurd) that are strictly adhered to by all well-respected British citizens, and then there is a lot of poking fun at our own interpretations of vampires and werewolves and how they work.

And underneath all of that, and maybe more powerful because of the direct contrast - is the raw power and animal-sex of the culture. Against all the posterings of society, Miss. Tarabotti runs with her feelings, displaying an alarming amount of modernity. Her sexual life is seen in a very modern light. As for Lord Maccon who oozes sex, his sexual life is seen as part of the woldness and the woods and nature, from which he hails. I think that is particularly powerful between the two of them since they tend to match one another in all ways ... and she saves him almost as much as he saves her, and that makes me happy.

The plot is somewhat slow at times, but you will not get bored! It is that full of other things to amuse you with. I love Alexia as the full bodied, dark and big nosed character she is - but my character-love for this book goes to the oochie coochie fashion-"forward", rake of all vampires, Lord Akeldema! He is amazing! He has the most interesting dialogue, and he just never quits - even as he lays in danger, possibly at death's door, he has a lovely platitude for Alexia, while ogling Lord Maccon and disparaging at the state of his waistcoat. He is, quite simply, a character I would love to study in more detail (and hopefully he is a star in the sequels!). He is a vampire and a Rove, loosely affiliated with one of the hives in the London area (Vampires collect themselves in "Hives" that are run by a Queen. Only the Queen can change others into vampires. A ROve is a vampire without a Hive, but usually has affiliations with one or another Hive, but is essentially on his or her own), and he has a penchant for pretty boys, strange fashions and gossip. Lots of gossip. He is delightful, terrifying and perfectly accomidating to my curious mind.

Not that I do not love Alexia and Lord Maccon - but honestly! Who would have thought up a character like Lors Akeldema! I have not been so excited since I discovered Miss Gwen from The Secret History of the Pink Carnation!

Lucky for me - there are two sequels already out! (One which I have and one which I won off Larissa's site and is coming for me in the mail!)

So I can continue to spend some time in this amazingly detailed and amazing world (for comparison, I have not been as excited for a new world since I read Jasper Fforde's first Thursday Next book!).

Excellent book!
Here I go off to read the next one! :)


Here is Gail Carriger's Website - I honestly and urgently beseach you all to visit, it's loaded with goodies on everything from steam punk to essays - go!

And for those chomping at the bit for more - the fourth book in the series will be coming out in July! *squeal* See cover up above! (The purple one, called "Heartless")

Also - for true fans (and those, like my roommate who looked like she was about to fall asleep during class...) a game for you! I am loving these book-related perks that publishers are investing in these days! Love the games especially!

2/10 books

2/20 books

Off The Shelf!

8/75 books

Steampunkery & Book Reviews

4/12 books

2/20 books

1 comment:

  1. Bravo, a wonderful addition to your books read. I loved this one. More so then the others but I think this one hit me perfectly and at the right time. A grand read and a lovely review :)

    Mad Scientist