Soulless, Gail Carriger
I originally read Soulless a while ago, and I didn’t know much about it — just that people found it a lot of fun. And I think I was still being snobby about overt romance in fiction, before embracing my love of Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart (not that this is solely romantic fiction in that way, though it does share some of the features, like a plucky single heroine who is a spinster, etc, etc). Anyway, I thought it was kind of fun, but I wasn’t really prepared to enjoy it for what it was.
This time, I knew it was often ridiculous, would make me laugh, included a rather shocking amount of bodice ripping detail, etc. And I was prepared to enjoy it for that — and somehow that made it easier to focus on the bits of world-building around that: hive politics, pack politics, human politics, the changes Carriger’s made to history to fit in vampires and other supernatural creatures. I guess in a way it stays disturbingly imperialistic and so on — Victoria is queen, it’s a golden age, silly America is kind of backwards, etc. But really we don’t see much of the rest of the empire; it stays pretty parochial. Maybe the word should be territorial?
The mystery is terribly easy, though, especially the second time around. That’s not so much any actual clues as the fact that the author slaps a certain element into every couple of scenes. It’s not exactly subtle as a Chekhov’s gun.
Still, I’m happy to read this as light fun; as a friend said before, it’s a cream puff of a book. And that’s fine. And hey, the positivity of the sexuality between Conall and Alexia is actually pretty positive, and it’s nice that Carriger doesn’t milk angst out of it with too much obsessing over Alexia’s reputation, etc.