Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Magic Under Glass: A Review

Magic Under Glass
Written by: Jaclyn Dolamore
Paperback: 225 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Language: English
February 2010
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Steampunk

Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act - singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets stir.

Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry's involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton's stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.


My friend and I were out and about shopping downtown when we stopped into the local ma and pa bookstore (yes they do still exist). Of course I suffer from the affliction of not being able to leave a bookstore without buying something and I saw this book in their bargain bin. It looked interesting – fairies, automatons, sorcerers, and a Victorian sensibility. Yep, sounds like just the thing for me. Man I am such a sucker.

Nimira grew up at court in Tassim singing and dancing like her mother, but after her mother dies and her family falls from grace she travels to Lorinar. Far from the prestige at court where singing and dancing were fine arts, she is reduced to an exotic “trouser girl” earning next to nothing and appearing right after the trained dogs. It is a dismal life and she yearns for something more. So it is no surprise that she jumps at the chance to escape when the dashing gentleman Mr Parry offers her a chance to accompany his automaton.

With Mr Parry she no longer has to share her room with others. She has access to gardens, libraries, and of course the famous automaton who plays the piano. Of course other girls have been hired as well but have fled due to the automaton which they swear is haunted. Nim enjoys this new life and even harbors the possibility that she might become more to Mr Parry.

Then she spends an afternoon alone with the automaton and learns the truth – it is alive, and his name is Erris. As she struggles to find a way to save the lost fairy prince, she falls in love, discovers that Mr Parry has been keeping secrets, and tries desperately to stop a war from happening.

Things I loved: Dolamore has created a wonderful little world with shades of Steampunk fantasy and Jane Eyre. This book has fairies, necromancy, sorcery, political machinations, automatons, different cultures and races, secrets, and corsetry. Not bad. Her characters are flawed even when they are good. I really like Nimira. She is strong, curious, and instead of being the damsel in distress is resourceful and saves the man in distress. She is also loyal and determined, proud of who she is, and a bit practical. I also liked that through her we get a taste of racism and how various characters deal with it…if at all or where it may come from. There are quite a few shades of grey with some of the characters (Hollin) and I like that. They truly believe that what they are doing is for the good of all or perhaps at least some. And then others like Smollings are completely one dimensional and disappointing.

Things I didn’t love so much: I am not sure if Dolamore intended for there to be another book, but I felt as if the relationship that progressed between Erris and Nim was a bit too fast. I know that this is a trope that happens far too often in romantic comedies, but I wanted more as I was interested in both characters but found their love progressing far too quick for it to be realistic for me. That being said I like the star crossed lovers thing. In fact I am a total sucker for it. Maybe I am a practical romantic, but I found it hard to believe that the two characters would fall in love with only a few paragraphs worth of exchange. Perhaps the montage scene wasn’t clear enough, but the progression of time didn’t seem like a whole lot…perhaps a week or two. Not a lot of time considering your love interest has no voice of his own and you’re jotting down small sentences to communicate. I wanted more, to understand how these two characters fell for one another. I needed more characterization. This is proven further when I felt like Hollin and Nim were actually falling for one another. I just found it hard to believe Nim and Erris as adorable as it was.

The characters are great as I have said but the pacing was so rushed that I didn’t get to really know them to make them full bodied characters that I fell in love with. I wanted to know more about Mr Parry, why he did the things he did, why his father had pretty much soul crushed him (though understandable), more about Nim, definitely more about Erris. The novel is good mind you, it could have been 4 bookmarks though. There is so much room to go further into detail a world and characters Dolamore carefully crafted. It just all seems very rushed which is unfortunate as there is some great stuff there.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. I did at least fall in love with the world enough that I will read the next one, though I am not sure that this book would warrant many re-reads. But as I said I want to pick up the next one. After all I do need to see Erris become a real boy. *smirk*

Part of: Series

Also Recommended: If you are looking for some steampunkery please try: The Lunar chronicles by Marissa Meyer beginning with Cinder, The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger, and Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

No comments: