I really enjoyed Espionage & Etiquette enough that I decided to check out the parent series whose universe it was set in. I’m glad I did, for I think that this book is stronger in pretty much sense. The cast is bigger and a bit more complex. The settings are more varied and fleshed out and the world building is much better and the explanation behind vampires and weres is an interesting one and I liked it.
Oddly enough, the steam punk, a pretty major feature of the other book, is pretty downplayed here. I’d call this much more a supernatural book than I would steam punk, though the elements are there. The plot isn’t terribly complex or unique, but it’s fun enough and the courtship through Victorian guidelines is always a blast.
Verdict: Buy it.
On the note of whether you should read this before reading the Etiquette and Espionage..yes and no is my answer to that. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. On the one hand, there are few passages that make more sense if you’ve read Soulless first. On the other, weaknesses of the newer book stand out all the more. Some of them are what you might expect in a difference between YA and “adult” but things like the world building seem even lazier when compared to the parent series.
In my other review I stated I felt like the vampire and were characters were tacked on, and now I feel that way even more strongly than before. As I mentioned, preternatural creatures are front and center in that universe and in Etiquette & Espionage they exist but feel tacked on. Having read this, I’m even more convinced that they were, that the author or the publishing company was worried that they might alienate fans of Parasol Protectorate if they didn’t include them, but then did such a poor job of it they may as well might not have bothered.
I still think both books are fun, but Soulless is undeniably a better book and even though you might be a bit confused, you might be better off starting with Etiquette and Espionage. It’s really your call. If you like one, you’ll like the other and vice versa.