Fortysomething, photographer slacker, working in IT, living in Greenwich; failed polymath; drinks and eats too much, reads too little...
A return to the bizarre paranormal-steampunk-romance-comedy-of-manners in the sequel to Soulless. This time, sadly, there doesn't appear to be any treacle tarts. Gingersnaps get a couple of mentions, but to be frank they aren't treacle tarts, and more's the pity. More books need treacle tart in them (so to speak). Alexia Tarabotti is now Lady Alexia Maccon, having married Lord Conall Maccon, the Earl of Woolsey and werewolf alpha. So, not only is she the only soulless preternatural in London and the muhjah to the Queen, she is now also Lady Woolsey and female alpha to the Lord's pack as well. They all live together at the pack's estate just north of Barking – Barking, geddit?
Suddenly a plague falls upon the supernatural set of London as they are all returned to mortal form. For vampires and werewolfs that means no shape changing, no super-human powers and no sleeping during the day. For the ghosts it just means they stop existing. As the only soulless in London, suspicion quickly falls on Alexia. Her touch returns supernaturals to their mortality, but never on this scale and never without physical contact. As her husband is called away to deal with a problem with his old Scottish pack, Alexia is charged to investigate by the Queen.
The world building and concepts are all as well thought out and presented as in the previous story. The addition of the avant-garde scientist Madamme Lafoux is enjoyable, with her Q branch like parasol of tricks, strange dress and possible links to the underground scientists. And the hot-and-cold relationships of Ivy Hisselpenny are amusingly intertwined with the main story. But the story is not without flaws – putting the lack of treacle tarts to one side, Madamme Lafoux's attraction to Alexia is so clearly telegraphed that it seems incredible that an otherwise smart woman could have made it through most of the book without realising. And, secondly, that the problems with the curse of mortality could have solved within a couple of chapters if only Alexia and Conall could manage to have a normal relationship where they talked about their obviously common investigations, rather than just arguing and shagging all the time. Instead we have to drag the investigation all over the country – even to Scotland of all places – before it can be solved. The big cliffhanger at the end – obviously a tease for the final book of the trilogy – didn't annoy me as much as it has some other reviewers: it's a series, you're always going to keep reading if you've got this far. Unless you don't like the book. But the cliff hanger twist seems like a natural device.