Alexia Tarrabotti has a number of flaws – she’s a spinster, and she’s Italian. Plus there’s the small matter of her not having a soul.
In this version of England, vampires, werewolves and ghosts have been a matter of public life since the time of King Henry VIII. They’re relatively rare, as to survive the transition to supernatural status, a person must have more than the usual amount of soul, and it’s not easy to tell who has enough soul to make the transition. Alexia has the opposite condition – her lack of soul makes her preternatural – the opposite of the supernaturals, and she can neutralize their power with a touch.
Alexia finds herself in a bit of a situation when she’s accosted by a vampire, who tries to bite her. Not only is this the height of bad manners, but he doesn’t seem to understand that he can’t bite her, of all people. She’s forced to kill him, which brings her to the attention of Lord Maccon, the alpha male of the local werewolf pack, and the head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registery (the government agency in charge of keeping track of supernaturals). Alexia and Lord Maccon soon find out there are a number of strange things happening in the local vampire and werewolf committees, and investigate together.
This is a fun book – Alexia is a very properly brought up Victorian gentlewoman, and her interactions with Lord Maccon, who is only polished on the surface, are fun. I also enjoyed her vampire friend, Lord Akeldama – a vampire loner and dandy. I’m still a bit unclear about what makes Alexia soulless – but it’s not something you need to know to make the story work.
One minor rant: on the cover of this book (and the next, as that’s advertised on the inside cover), Alexia is wearing a top hat and those ridiculous goggles that any steam punk heroine must wear. I suppose this is theoretically a steampunk book, being set in the appropriate era, but the timeframe is about it – it’s otherwise a standard modern vampire fantasy. She never wears said goggles in the story. Have we really come to this for branding purposes?