Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain or "Wild West"-era United States—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology, or futuristic innovations as Victorians might have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology includes such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or the contemporary authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld and China Mieville. -- from google.com
When I started looking for steampunk titles, Soulless by Gail Carriger kept coming up in nearly all my searches. It was described as steampunk romance, which put me off at first, but a further search showed me that it was being nominated and awarded errr, awards, from left, right and center. So I decided to give it a shot.
Without a morsel of exaggeration, its publisher describes this debut novel as "a comedy of manners set in Victorian London full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking." At the center of Soulless's "parasol protectorate" is Miss Alexia Tarabotti, a young woman who lacks not only a suitor but also a soul. And those are not her only problems: When she accidentally kills a vampire, it begins a series of events that she must set out to resolve without the help of any proper authorities.
And I loved it. I loved it so much that I would have given it 5 out of 5 stars, if not for one chapter where the main characters couldn't get their raging hormones under control even with imminent danger. But aside from that ridiculous scene, I loved everything. Miss Alexia Tarabotti is one formidable character. This is probably sacrilege to most people, but I think if Jane Austen were alive in modern times she would have adored Alexia Tarabotti.
I think the paranormal aspects made it a smoother introduction into steampunk for me. There's nothing I hate more than when I'm unfamiliar with the world a story has been set in, and then obscure names and other jargon are being thrown at me at the very beginning of the story - this coming from a fantasy reader. Silly, I know. But I didn't feel uncomfortable with Soulless at all. Explanations for mechanical contraptions were weaved into dialogues seamlessly, rather than plunked into a conversation because there was nowhere else to put it.
To sum up, I enjoyed my first introduction to steampunk and I look forward to reading the rest of the Parasol Protectorate series.
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