based on a novel by Gail Carriger; adapted and art by Rem
published by Yen Press; $12.99 US
Oh, my! What fun this was!
I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this frothy mix of Victorian supernaturalism and werewolf romance, since I’m not normally a fan of those kinds of books, or of manga adaptations of properties popular elsewhere. (Soulless is a spin-off of the five Parasol Protectorate novels by Gail Carriger.)
But this was just enjoyable escapism. Alexia is a preternatural, a human with the ability to turn supernatural creatures mortal when they touch her. She’s completely unrealistic for a Victorian with her attitude and fearlessness, but that’s what makes her such a great read today. She’s Buffy in more elaborate costumes, Bella if she wasn’t a drip, every young woman who feels trapped by convention but dreams of showing just how special and smart and powerful she can be. I appreciated seeing how much she chafed under her family’s dismissal of her as a spinster (unmarried at 26, can you imagine) and cheered for her standing up for herself. Plus, there’s a handsome, powerful, exotic, brawny guy for her to flirt with. Best of all, he likes her because of her spirits, not in spite of them.
Lord Maccon is the Scottish nobleman and pack chief she spars with, and in the classic form, their spats are a sign of how they care for each other. Lord Akeldama, meanwhile, is a flamboyant vampire hive leader. The dialogue is occasionally sparkling, as when Maccon is bemoaning to his second-in-command, who has correctly just advised him that groveling for forgiveness might be a good idea. “I am NOT a groveler!” shouts the Lord, to which the wiser assistant responds, “It is possible to learn many new and interesting skills in one’s lifetime.”
The art is gloriously indulgent, in a mood keeping with the tone of the story, with plenty of period costumes and emotional moments. About the only criticism I had was how very low (almost non-existent) the front of the heroine’s dress was during many scenes. It’s also clear, at times, just how much more mythology there is behind this story — mentions of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry and the social organizations of the vampires and werewolves and drones indicate rich background that isn’t always fully explained here. I didn’t ever feel lost, but it was apparent there was more going on that I didn’t know. That sense, that there’s more out there if I want to find out, is much preferred to the usual exposition-heavy text dumps, which this volume mercifully avoids.