Carriger, Gail. Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1). Orbit, 2009. ISBN 978-0316056632 384 pp. $9.99
Vampires, werewolves, and golems, oh my! Set in an alternative 19th century England stocked with dirigibles, parasols, and new fangled electricity, 25-year old spinster Alexia Tarabotti is a firey young woman whose lack of a soul allows her to (temporarily) restore humanity to the supernatural merely with her touch. When a vampire who has never heard of preternaturals attacks Alexia at a dinner party, she accidentally kills him, and the Bureau of Unnatural Registry’s ensuing investigation of the covenless and malnourished vampire puts outspoken Alexia in proximity with the Earl of Wollsey, who also happens to be a local Alpha werewolf she constantly butts heads with. BUR won’t hire a woman of Alexia’s class, in spite of her profound desire to be useful in society, but she does prove helpful in the investigation.
Soulless is ripe with humor, romance, and excitement, and has wonderful details of science, food!, and the supernatural. The ending is predictable and supporting characters are caricaturesque (the flamboyant vampire, the clueless best friend, the kindly professor, the awkward scientist) but this fast-paced read is a delightful steampunk romp, with promises for a sequel.