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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Magic Under Glass
by Jaclyn Dolamore

Nimira is a "trouser girl" singing and dancing for her living in Lorimar when she is approached by powerful sorceror Hollin Parry.  Hollin wants to hire her to sing with the accompaniment of a life-sized, piano playing automaton he owns.  His offer promises to change Nimira's life drastically for the better -- but there is a catch.  Every other woman he has hired has run away, terrified of the automaton, which they insist is alive.  Nimira takes the job, refusing to be afraid of an automaton, but when it comes alive for her, she finds herself in the center of a story of a fairy prince trapped in a wooden body, and a dangerous man who wants the prince dead -- and she must find a way to put things to rights.

When I won this book from WillowRaven of  Red House Books, I was excited because I had seen it around and thought it sounded cute, but I figured it'd be a throw-away read.  A cute little story about a fairy prince and the human girl who can save him, aww isn't that nice, the end.  I didn't think I would find myself very invested in the story or the characters, and I didn't think I would be late coming back from my lunch break at work because I wanted to finish the chapter...

So Magic Under Glass surprised me.  I actually genuinely liked it.  Not unreservedly, but more than I expected to for sure.  Nimira is an engaging heroine, and I absolutely loved how she communicated with the fairy prince/automaton.  I also liked that things weren't completely easy for her in her feelings or her decision making, and that her foreign background wasn't dismissed, but there was some social/racial tension and some wistfulness for home.  It added a layer of authenticity and depth to the story, so that even though it wasn't a main issue by any means, it helped paint the scene.

It's a very fast-paced book with a nice blend of feistiness, romance, magic and culture.  The drawbacks for me were few, but they are big enough that they deserve a mention:
1. There is a blurb on the cover saying "For fans of Libba Bray and Charlotte Bronte" which amused me to no end at first.  I assumed it was just because of the time-period of the book, and I was like, "Charlotte Bronte?  Really?  They're just going to throw that out there?"  But when I got further into the book, I realized why that comparison was made.  There is a strong resemblance to Jane Eyre in certain aspects of the book, which I can't go into without being completely spoilery.  It didn't bother me much, and if you haven't read Jane Eyre, it won't bother you at all, but I am sure there are those of you who are going to read this and be a little pissed that it has a rip-off feel at times.
2. I felt the first 1/2 was better than the 2nd.  Now, to be fair, I read a proof copy, so I don't know how mine differed from the finished version.  But for me, with the ARC, the first 1/2 was gripping and fast in an enjoyable way, and really captivating.  I liked the set-up of the world and getting to know Nimira, and everything flowed really well.  In the second 1/2, I felt like the snowball was rolling a little too fast.  I wanted better pacing, more of a chance to absorb what was going on and let everything develop.  The second 1/2 wasn't bad by any means, but compared to the first, it felt like a little bit of a rush job.

Those 2 caveats aside, I really enjoyed this book. It was the light, fun read I expected, but with a little more oomph than I'd hoped for, and that's a good thing.  If there is more coming (if this turns out to be a series, which it will, if the rumor mill is right) I will certainly pick up book 2, and I look forward to reading more from Dolamore in the future.

<--- It got the Magic Rat Badge!
How's about a mini FFO?  I like the copy I ended up with, but the reason I marked this as to-read to begin with was cover appeal -- and it wasn't this cover.  So here are the three covers for MUG (<-- yep): which do you like best?

Side note:  Now, though I think my cover is gorgeous, it was the subject of a whitewashing fiasco -- which of course shouldn't be held against the author or the book, as she had no control over that.
The issue was that Nimira is described as having brown/tan skin and "exotic" features, which the white gal on cover 1 doesn't portray.  So the US ended up with cover 3.  What do you think?

 Because this amuses me to no end, here is Dolamore's bio and picture:
Jaclyn Dolamore was homeschooled in a hippie sort of way and spent her childhood reading as many books as her skinny nerd-body could lug from the library and playing elaborate pretend games with her sister Kate.  She skipped college and spent eight years drudging through retail jobs, developing her thrifty cooking skills and pursuing a lifelong writing dream.  She has a passion for history, thrift stores, vintage dresses, David Bowie, drawing, and organic food.  She lives with her partner and plot-sounding-board Dade and two black tabbies who have ruined her carpeting.

Here's my teaser, and here's the trailer:

And this is her website and her blog which is called FabulousFrock.  Fun!


  1. This is really enlightening. I've got a copy of this one and I was feeling a little ambivalent about picking it up for some reason (not sure why) but the fact you were into it enough to be late back from lunch is a good sign.

    Re: the covers, I'm really glad that the US cover was changed. I've actually got the UK one, which is lovely, but probably less impressive because it's in paperback.

  2. I've had this book in my TBR pile for a while though I think this is the first review I've actually read about it. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it and I look forward to reading it myself. As for covers, I actually like the one that you featured with the review, the best, despite the controversy related to it. I find that cover the most intriguing, ( and this has nothing to do with skin tone but with the)

  3. I've been meaning to read this, but I put it in a display this month at our library, so I'll be waiting a while now.... interesting how many different covers there are!

    And - letting you know -- passing along two awards to you! here

  4. Okay so today I went to the store and saw this book, it had the middle cover, but as always I didn't buy it..now I wished I did. Great review, I can't wait to go back..(one day..LOL)and buy it.
    I like fun, light books!

  5. been wanting to read this one since the i saw the trailer. so i'm glad you gave it a Magic Rat Badge. i love the whimsy look of the 2nd cover version, but i really liked the 1st version. you know what's crazy? i had a image copy of the first version on my blog post and then recently it magically turned into the 3rd version.


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