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.
Before I even start this review, I want to make a comment on the cover. This book, or more accurately this book’s cover, has been causing a stir around the internet. The main character, Nimira, is foreign and dark-skinned, but the book was originally published with the top cover, featuring a white-skinned model. This practice is know as “whitewashing” and there is an excellent post about it at The Book Smugglers which I highly recommend reading.
There was so much fuss that the publisher, Bloomsbury, reprinted the book with the new cover, shown to the left. Personally, I like this one better and the model is a much better representation of Nim. However, the copy I got from the library had the original cover, which is why that one is at the top of the post.
It’s now a month since I read this book (the danger of letting reviews slide) and I’m finding it hard to know what to say about it. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the book – rather it was a very pleasant read – but I’m not finding lots of memorable things to tell you about. Instead, I’m left with a series of impressions more than a coherent review.
I really liked Nim. She had a bright, positive character that added lovely colour to the novel. There was a real sense of her background and homeland as a bright, sunny, desert kind of place that contrasted beautifully with the more English-like setting of the novel that gave me a feeling of cool and green and something much softer edged. Her situation wasn’t great at the beginning of the novel, but she fully owned that her own actions had brought her to that position and when the offer from Hollin Parry came up, she took the risk and the chance to improve things.
Her interaction with the clockwork automaton and discovery of the spirit inside was nicely done, as were her developing relationships with both Erris and Parry. The plot did grow a little complicated with the discovery of wives in attics and external politics, but it never went out of control.
I found myself a little surprised at the ending. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but that it felt more like a pause than an ending. I had assumed that the book was a standalone, but the resolution suggests there is another book coming. I don’t know for sure if that is the case, but Nim and Erris’s story isn’t finished yet and I hope we do find out what happens to them next.
So all in all, this was a very nice little story. It was a very good debut and I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what Jaclyn Dolamore produces next.
Magic Under Glass
Read: 5-2-19 to 12-2-10