Saturday, January 9, 2010

Book Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

  • Title: Magic Under Glass
  • Author:  Jaclyn Dolamore
  • Genre: Young Adult (YA)
  • Hardcover (US): 225 pages
  • Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Children's Books 
  • ISBN-10: 1599904306
Summary:  Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for mere pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.  [Cover photo & book description provided by Goodreads.]

Overall rating: 8/10 
To buy this book:  Powell's | Amazon | IndieBound | The Book Depository
(The Book Depository has both the US & UK editions available)
In her charming debut novel Jaclyn Dolamore has created an engaging story, a likable heroine, and an intriguing magic-filled world.  Magic Under Glass is a pleasure to read.  Anyone who adored Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series, and Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer's Kate & Cecelia books, or readers with an interest in fairy tale romances (with a steampunk twist) should definitely check out Magic Under Glass.

I Liked:
  • Nimira, who is brave, determined, and compassionate.  
  • Hollin, who is not consistently brave or compassionate, but may have potential to be.  
  • the concept of a clockwork man, which in this case renders Erris essentially an invalid.  He cannot wind himself, cannot physically seek the answers he desperately needs, and is wholly dependent upon the attendance of his patient & determined friend.
  • how easy it was to fall immediately into Nimira's world of corsets, carriages, and sorcery.  The narrative is first person, straightforward, and believable.  
  • that despite the fantastical story elements & the historically-inspired setting, the story isn't bogged down with endless descriptive passages or stuffy formal dialogue.  That relative simplicity helps maintain the novel's pace & will have you rooting for the heroine from the very first page.
I Wished: 
  • the book was twice as long!  
  • the characters' actions always reflected the tension that I felt their circumstances deserved, particularly in the final third of the story.
  • Erris & Nimira's budding romance didn't depend quite so much upon her sense of compassionate obligation.  At times, their relationship felt too much like a nurse/patient love story for my taste.
This book is classified as YA, but I think it will appeal to readers of all ages.  There isn't anything particularly racy in Magic Under Glass, and although there is a bit of violence & small amount of spooky magic, it is not any scarier than J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books or the eerie "friends on the other side" in Disney's recent Princess and the Frog movie. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a middle grade reader.

I enjoyed Magic Under Glass, and I hope to read more from Jaclyn Dolamore.  I believe she is beginning to work on the second book about Nimira and Erris, tentatively entitled Magic Under Stone.  She is also working on a totally new book (series?) featuring a romance between a mermaid & a winged boy.  Don't you love the star-crossed sound of that premise?  I can't wait to read it!  You can learn more about Magic Under Glass and author Jaclyn Dolamore's upcoming projects on her website, blog, and twitter.

Side note:  There has been a bit of public outcry regarding the US cover of this novel & whether it represents another unfortunate example of "white-washing" in the publishing industry.  Personally, although I like some aspects of the US cover (particularly the model's lovely dress), I do believe this cover image falls under the "white-washing" category.  In Magic Under Glass, Nimira is explicitly described as dark-skinned and has often been judged based upon her ethnicity.  Her race, while not the primary focus of the novel, is still a vital element of the plot & her character.  Yet the US cover model is clearly light-skinned.  That being said, I would definitely not advise people to boycott this book based upon the publisher's cover image because I believe that the person who would suffer most from such a boycott would be the author, Jaclyn Dolamore, who wrote a lovely novel featuring a charming, dark-skinned heroine.  She is not responsible for her publisher's cover design choice.  What I would urge you to do, if you share my opinion about the damaging effects of "white-washing," is to drop a brief note directly to the publisher responsible, Bloomsbury.  Interestingly, this is the same publisher that recently received a lot of negative press for another "white-washed" cover (Justine Larbalestier's Liar).  It is important to note that after receiving public feedback regarding that cover, Bloomsbury completely changed the original cover image to better reflect the protagonist's ethnicity prior to final publication.  To learn more about the Liar cover debacle, please read this Publishers Weekly article or visit Justine's website.

COVER UPDATE (1/21) - Bloomsbury has just apologized for the offense caused by the original US cover image.  They will no longer be distributing copies with that cover & announced that copies with a new jacket design will be available soon.  Read the official announcement here.

Happy reading!  :-)


Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Hi Violet, I saw the link to your review on the 1st in a Series challenge on Royal Reviews and wanted to read your review of this book.

I love the style of your review and I especially liked the way you did the 'I liked'. Fantastic review, I will add this book to my TBR.

Violet said...

Thank you, Alaine! :) I hope you will enjoy Magic Under Glass.

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