Soulless, book one of the Parasol Protectorate series, is a great mash up of steampunk, whodunit, bodice-ripper, and the supernatural. Think Arthur Conan Doyle meets Jane Austen meets Charlaine Harris.
Set in Victorian London, Soulless follows our heroine, Alexia Tarrabotti, half Italian, full-figured, “old” (at 26), tends to speaks her mind, has a great fondness for treacle tart, and is soulless. This last is not explained as well in the manga as it is in the novel. In a world where Vampires and Werewolves are important members of the peerage and to successfully become a vampire or werewolf one must have an excess of soul, Alexia has no soul whatsoever. One side effect of this condition is that Alexia’s touch negates the supernatural. While Alexia touches them, a vampire or werewolf reverts to human.
Having little to loose, Alexia sees no reason not to satisfy her natural curiosity about why rogue vampires are appearing in London, what is going on at the Hypocras Club and what is it exactly about the werewolf Lord Macon that she finds to infuriatingly intriguing.
The manga version does a great job translating the written book to an illustrated version. Carriger has a way with dialog and nothing is lost in translation. The characters all love to play with words. Alexia’s friend Ivy’s speech is affected to the point of ridiculousness and everyone knows it. Alexia is supposed to be full-figured and the manga is certainly faithful to that description. It has A LOT of cleavage.
If I had any criticism of the manga it would be the attempt to fit the whole book in one volume of the manga. There are many characters to juggle and many plot points in the book are explained through internal dialog, which doesn’t translate to a visual medium very well. But amazingly, everything is there in the manga. Just pay attention to all the details. They will be important later (volume two is already schedule for release in the fall of 2012).
I’m not sure why most other reviews have glossed over the sex scene. I guess it is short and considering what one can see in superhero comics, fairly tame. But when a naked lady is straddling a naked man, I don’t care how tastefully her hair is arranged, that makes it fairly racy to be included in my teen graphic novel section.
Rated Older Teen and they mean it – not for a high school collection. Public libraries may want to consider placing it in the adult collection for those couple of racy scenes.
Soulless the Manga
by Gail Carriger
Art by Rem
Yen Press, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen