Title: Magic Under Glass
Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Series: Magic Under, #1
Format: Paperback, owned
My rating: 3.5 - 4 / 5
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.
I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I haunt Amazon every now and then looking for second hand books that seem interesting. I remember stumbling across Magic Under Glass and thought I’d try it. I don’t read too much steampunk, so I took a chance with this book and I’m really glad I did! I really liked it.
The book is quite short at 225 pages, and a lot happens within those pages. I thought Nimira was a great main character and with the “we need diverse characters” campaign that took place recently this is exactly what I wanted to read now. We aren’t given specific locations in relation to our world, and all the names used are fictitious, but the impression I’m left with is Nimira is of Middle Eastern descent, and the world that’s described in the book is more of English origin, set in a historical backdrop.
Nimira, or Nim, is an entertainer who has left her home country to find her fortune. She wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but after her death she decided to make a new start for herself. Nim meets Hollin Parry at one of her stage shows, and he offers her the opportunity to sing in an act with an automaton that plays the piano. Rumours are rife that the automaton is haunted, and Nim soon finds out that the rumours are true. They manage to find a way to communicate, and we begin to learn of Erris’s plight. He is a fairy prince who has been trapped within the automaton, and Nim is determined to set him free.
I really like Nim. She realises she is classed as lesser than those she is surrounded by, but she doesn’t let this define who she is as a person. It increases her determination to prove herself. I really like that she stands up for herself and those around her and won’t let anything put her off her opinions.
I loved the concept that the characters fall in love without falling for appearances. It didn’t matter about the different backgrounds or what each physically looks like; they fall in love with the person, not the body. In YA these days, the focus is so often on the descriptions of the characters. When a book is narrated by a female, more often than not the book has a tendency to revolve around how swoon-worthy the guy is. This was so refreshing to see a character fall in love with a soul of man trapped inside an automaton. It stripped away the physicality aspect, and focused on important things, like friendship and personality! And to make an automaton appealing shows has to show great skill on behalf of the author.
I liked the way the romance is woven into the story and the magic and sorcery doesn’t come second place, or overpower the story. But a big problem I have is I feel the book was way too short. I feel that the 225 pages weren’t enough. We didn’t get to see much of a backstory for any of the characters. With such a short book, I’m impressed with the emotion the author has managed to put in the pages, but the story is crying out for more detail. I want to know the characters a little better, Erris in particular. At times it feels like things are skimmed over, and when more detail would have added so much to a scene, we get very little. The plot is very fast moving, and I think it would have benefited with a slightly slower pace, and about an extra fifty or sixty pages. It’s not often I ask for more detail or more pages!
Overall, I really liked this book, but I do feel like I read a short story rather than a full length novel. I think there is a sequel and I’ll definitely consider continuing on.