It's hard not to fall in love with any book that begins with the heroine expressing some disappointment that her opening fight with a vampire has destroyed the treacle tart that she'd had her eye on. Our heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, is a spinster (at the ripe old age of 26) of mixed parentage – her father was Italian. Her parentage is repeatedly referred to as an embarrassing negative (being half-Italian is just so uncouth, the fact that he's dead just makes it worse), as is her slightly larger than ideal nose and her slightly less than alabaster skin. At times this joke lives up to it's expectation of humour, but sadly not always. As if Alexia didn't have enough to put up with, she's also a preternatural – she has no soul and this somehow cancels out the supernatural abilities of any vampires or werewolves that she comes into contact with (which seems to come in handy during the opening fight scene).
Vampires, werewolves, preternaturals, presumably ghosts and possibly other supernatural forms, all living in a Victorian London. It's a steampunk, paranormal, romance, comedy-of-manners, mystery story. That's a lot of genre (a number of which I'm generally not that fussed about, or would even actively avoid) to fit into a single novel and it could have so easily been a twee YA mess, but [a:Carriger|2891665|Gail Carriger|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1257289860p2/2891665.jpg] manages to steer her course, mostly safely, along the path of witty tongue-in-cheek. Yes, some of the prose gets a little clumsy and repetitive in places; yes, the weird style of changing the way characters are referenced from first name to surname and back again is off-putting (even annoying); yes, the blossoming romance between our heroine and Lord Maccon, the head of the supernatural special branch, was so obviously foreshadowed it should have been on the cover; yes, some of the 'hot' scenes were so awkwardly written that I doubted that Carriger had any real idea what it would be like to make out with a werewolf. But, for all of its faults, some of my awkwardness and annoyance aside, at no point did I ever consider putting the book down. It wormed its way into my affections as the witty prose and the interesting ideas won me over almost immediately. Also, treacle tart!