Gail Carriger debuted with Soulless where she depicts a Victorian world were vampires, werewolf and ghosts are a (super)natural part in Society. In fact, it is the werewolves’ prowess as soldiers that has created the British Empire and it is the vampires that influence the rules and behaviours of good society. There are also, as it is a Steampunk novel, lots of scientists and a plethora of automatons, killer hedgehogs, parasols with extra devices and a lot more. The series contains five titles, Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless, together they are called The Parasol Protectorate. The reason that some people can become supernatural beings are an excess of soul, but the heroine in PP, Alexa Tarabotti, is a woman who has no soul at all. Apart from making her rather pragmatic, her touch turns vampires and werewolves back to human beings, for as long as the touch lasts. The books are a series, but each contains their own plot. The main protagonist, apart from Alexa, is her friend Lord Akeldama, the most outrageous vampire ever and the gruff, but annoyingly attractive werewolf, Lord Macoon. There is also a large supporting cast of scientists, family, friends, werewolves, vampires and ghosts.
A prequel series l to The Parasol Protectorate is The Finishing School, which so far has two volumes, Etiquette & Espionage and Curtsies & Conspiracies. These are YA novels and the heroine is a 14-year old girl Sophoria, who are sent to a finishing school. Only, this school is really teaching the art of espionage. The PP books takes place in the 1870’s and the FS some twenty odd years before, which means that some characters appears here as well, not always as younger persons.
I enjoy these books a lot. They are fun and fast-paced and Carriger makes her world detailed and interesting. The characters may appear a bit simplified, Alexa and Sophronia are, for example, both independent, intelligent characters who are slightly awkward in social settings, but over the course of the stories, layers and some depth are developed- after all, these books are mainly for fun. I also find it deeply satisfying that Carriger has done her fashion research and clothes and accessories are frequently important for the plot. Or added fun, like Alexa’s friend Ivy’s penchant for really awful hats. And, the ladies keep their corsets on! It’s a bit of a pet-peeve of mine when Victorian ladies 8or earlier), doesn’t wear this essential item of clothing. The PP books contains a good deal of sex, but not too explicit and not all relations are heterosexual, which I think is a point if their favour.
Recently a novella was published in the anthology The Book of the Dead, which gives the story of Alexa’s father and a new series is planned, which will feature Alexa’s daughter, The parasol Protectorate Aboard.
Another book tip is The Other Log of Phineas Fogg by Philip Farmer. It was written in 1973, well before the concept of Steampunk, but it still contains plot elements that makes it rather steamy, though there are also some SF. It is, as you may guess, a version of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Here the bet Fogg makes is actually the cover for a mission to retrieve a teleportation device. Farmer also includes character from other Verne books like Captain Nemo, as well as Dr. Moriarty, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I haven’t read any other books by Farmer, but as I understand it he has written several books that takes place in the same universe.
And last, a music tip. Voltaire (sometimes Aurelio Voltaire) have been one of my favourite musician for ten years, or so. His music is a bit hard to place and has been called folk/Goth/cabaret/new wave, or, as he himself described it "Music for a parallel universe where electricity was never invented and Morrissey is the queen of England". All his music can be found on YouTube and Spotify, but in a Steampunk context I particularly recommends the whole album To the Bottom of the Sea and Mechanical Girl.