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Jaclyn Dolamore – Magic Under Glass

March 8, 2016

78. Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore (2009)

Length: 225 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Started: 08 December 2015
Finished: 15 December 2015

Where did it come from? The library booksale.
Why do I have it? I remember hearing about it when it came out because of the whitewashing of the cover, so I picked up a copy (with the whitewashed cover, alas) when I saw one at the library book sale.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 30 May 2013.

Playing piano
is not top of my list for
my automaton.

Summary: Nimira grew up in a palace, but is now working as a music-hall girl in a country far from her home. But she catches the eye of a wealthy gentleman, who is also a sorcerer, who hires her away from the music hall to come live at his estate, and perform duets with the piano-playing automaton he owns. At first, Nimira is somewhat hesitant around the thing – his movements are so lifelike that it’s hard to believe he’s nothing more than machinery, and all the servants claim that he’s haunted. And that’s just one of the secrets and rumors that the house seems to hold, and its master is not forthcoming, even as he begins wooing Nimira. Master Parry is not unkind, but Nimira doesn’t love him in return… but when she uncovers his most dangerous secrets, she may have put them all – and the fate of the magical world itself – into deepest jeopardy.

Review: This book was… fine. It was quick and neat and not bad, but nothing about it grabbed me as particularly special, either. The jacket copy says “For fans of Libba Bray and Charlotte Brontë,” and both of those comparisons are appropriate (in fact, the comparison to Jane Eyre is maybe a little TOO on the nose.) But like Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty series (which is almost certainly what’s being referenced…. not her quirkier books like Beauty Queens or Going Bovine), I had a hard time getting invested in the characters or absorbed into the story, or the world it was depicting. The worldbuilding didn’t feel concrete or specific enough to make me care, and since the story is limited to the POV of an outsider character who is limited in what she can know and what she can discover, it was hard to get a feel for the bigger picture – how did magic work, what was the history of the politics and how did magic fit in to that, etc. That meant that it was hard to feel the weight of most of the story events, since we didn’t know enough about the world to really understand the ramifications of Nimira’s decisions. I did think the romance part of the story was sweet, if predictable and kind of rushed. Overall, this felt… *young* to me, almost bordering on mid-grade rather than YA, and while sometimes that can work for me, in this case it just felt too simplified in pretty much all of its aspects to be really satisfying, and too light to leave much of an impression. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I feel like I’ve read other fantasy of manners novels that do what this book attempts to, but with more life to them (Newt’s Emerald comes to mind among recent reads). This one may be best for fans of Gothic novels who don’t want the secrets lurking in the attic to actually be anything scary or suspenseful but do want a little clockwork mixed in.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

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First Line: The audience didn’t understand a word we sang.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 58: “She turned the slippers over, admiring every embroidered inch from vamp to soles.” – The upper part of a boot or shoe covering the instep and sometimes extending over the toe.
    .

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 8, 2016 6:04 pm

    I have been curious about this, but no rush to get to it based on your review. Maybe one day!

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