Monday, December 21, 2009
Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Nimira’s family used to be respected and admired courtesans in their home country; Nimira’s mother was an accomplished and beautiful dancer. Now, however, Nimira is reduced to singing and dancing for a pittance in front of jeering, unappreciative crowds in an unfriendly country. Then, a sorcerer named Hollin Parry offers Nimira an unusual position and a chance for a better life. Nimira is to sing along with an automaton that Hollin has acquired, an exquisitely wrought piece of craftsmanship that Hollin says was made by fairy magic.
It turns out there’s more to the automaton than everyone thinks, for Nimira begins to suspect that there is an actual man trapped inside the clockwork body. As Nimira digs deeper into the automaton’s past, she uncovers secrets all around her, and a threatening act of political conspiracy that may lead to war between humans and fairies.
With a premise like that, one can have only high expectations for Jaclyn Dolamore’s debut novel, MAGIC UNDER GLASS, and indeed, most of them are met in this sensuously written historical fantasy set in a magical and dangerous world.
The writing in this book is exquisite. Jaclyn Dolamore effortlessly captures readers’ attention with her unassuming descriptions of this fantastically different world. Nimira’s voice is appealingly innocent in this politically corrupt sphere, and yet we can also feel that she’s not going to passively accept her lot in life. The love triangle between Nimira, Hollis, and Erris (the automaton), while slightly strained at times, is also gentle and leaves a lot for your own interpretation and enjoyment. Its hushed and restrained nature is appropriate for the untrustworthy world in which they move, a world where their every movement is watched, and someone’s always ready to blackmail or threaten you.
However, I felt like the story never lived up to its full potential. An impending fairy war, political corruption, an impossible romance…how wonderful does it sound? Unfortunately, MAGIC UNDER GLASS concerned itself with only a small corner of this world—namely, the development of Nimira and Erris’ relationship, with what felt like only occasional intrusions from the larger world. This disjuncture between the story’s world and the actual tale that was told us felt jarring to me and fell a little short of what I desired from reading the first few chapters. The ending, also, felt too tame, and seemed to be a setup for a sequel, which meant that it ended rather abruptly and a little disappointingly.
Still, MAGIC UNDER GLASS was an intriguing read, and fans of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy should definitely check this out. With a great blend of magic, political intrigue, and an “Old World” feel, this might be an unusual and appealing read for you!
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - I just love how light, mysterious, and magical it feels. The warmth of the colors, the model's pose, the lighting...very attractive for me!
Bloomsbury / Dec. 22, 2009 / Hardcover / $16.99