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Soulless - Gail Carriger, Gail Carriger I picked this up because I was interested in reading about vampires and steampunk (shoot me) and this story combines the two. Another dominant genre mash of the novel slipped my notice until I started reading: romance - yuck!

Despite that, I managed it and am not even ashamed. To me, the first chapters were harder to get through, shaky, not because of the romance elements but because of the author's ornate writing style. Extensive use of adverbs and other tics (wordiness, head-hopping) were enviously (because she got published anyway) and endlessly distracting as well as simultaneously proof that a new writer with an appealing story can find an audience. Eventually even I began seeing the "mistakes" as amusing and/ or instructive and just read on, like so many others. For example, does this sentence bother you?: "She worried her lower lip." (p. 45). Do you approve of long passages in which two people fighting in a room are forgotten about while the protagonist thinks and kisses? What about word choices that seem to undermine the terror or violence and distance the reader from the important emotion of the scene because the author won't/can't vary the tone, though I understand that that tone probably sold the book. I just think it undermined the story telling at points.

Around the halfway point, I assumed I'd rate the book 3 stars, perhaps 2 if the plot, characters, and setting sagged, but it didn't. The romance blended with the urban fantasy and steampunk admirably. I like authors, I like writing, and I admire this first time writer (she's written at least 4 sequels since) most for a plot that did not putter out or blow up confusedly. If you get through the sloppy, crude exposition at the beginning that establishes the Victorian London steampunk setting, eventually Alexia Tarabotti, the protagonist, a 25-year old spinster with an annoying family who does not value her, is able to do more than just explain and inquire. There were even a few spots where I truly felt for her.

Science usually gets a good rap in steampunk, or that's my impression from limited exposure. It's true here too, but that is somewhat undermined by the villains, who use it nefariously.

WARNING: Vampires and werewolves and such beings are the focal viewpoint of the story. That, in my opinion, is what contributes to the lack of terror/horror. Humans however are portrayed in all our sinister, imperfect glory. That may offend you.