review: magic under glass

a little note beforehand: I've seemed to forgotten that this is a book REVIEW blog.
i.e. lack of reviews this month (or in general on this blog).
Apologies and get ready for some reviews this week!

Book Description:
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.

My Opinion:

Magic Under Glass is already infamous after the cover controversy that made it the center of attention in the book blogosphere. Suddenly this book was in our collective consciousness, and this is part of the reason why I promptly pushed it to the top of my reading pile when I picked up a copy.

And I think this book is great.

Let's ignore the controversy now, since the cover certainly shouldn't be the main focus of any book. Jacklyn Dolamore deserves attention for writing a lovely book in its own right, not for being the author who had a disaster as a cover.

In Dolamore's fantasy world there's a little bit of everything: sorcery, fairies, automatons, and quite a bit of political intrigue. Dolamore manages to put all these elements together and create a lush setting reminiscent of 19th century England, with a bit of steampunk and gothic romance mixed in. The resulting combination is a world worthy of praise.

Nimira is the heroine of this tale: a classic victim of the riches-to-rags good/bad luck that permeates fantasy tales. All the same, her predicament is an interesting one: and her dancing skills land her a job with the enigmatic (and oh-so-handsome) sorcerer Hollin Parry.

For a good part of the book, Magic Under Glass closely follows the plotline of Jane Eyre: under-appreciated girl is hired by mysterious, rich man who whisks her away to his manor only to fall deeply in love with her. Then cue drama when a mad woman rushes into her room in the middle of the night. This symmetry of plotline only furthers the resonance of Nimira's plight: and the magical elements added in another layer, another dimension, that just made this book all the more enjoyable.

From the very first I was enchanted by Dolamore's prose: it's evocative and finely tuned and quite beautiful. Lovely descriptions abound, and I felt Nimira's world to be quite solid. There were scenes and lulls in the book with beautiful words and exquisite sentences. For a debut novelist, the writing style is exemplary. Sure, it's not perfect, but when an author weaves a tapestry of description such as the one in Magic Under Glass, it's just lovely to behold.

The romance was quite a large part of the book: and it's nice to see it done right for once in YA.* The love triangle is a bit confusing at first since I wasn't sure who was best for Nimira, but who she ultimately ends up with is--in my opinion--the right choice. The automaton-who-is-really-a-fairy-prince is very sweet, and as Nimira strives to break his curse its a heartbreaking quest worthy of this book. Hollin Parry's conflict between choosing good over evil is well-drawn; however the evil sorcerer Smollings is a bit vague for my tastes. The characters are perhaps not as fully realized as I could have hoped for, but their performance is still good.

The finely tuned plot is both exciting and intriguing. I turned pages feverishly as Nimira sorts out her feelings for Hollins, falls in love with one of the two suitors vying for her affections, attempts to break a curse, and then tries to prevent tragedy from happening. She came off as a suitably strong heroine and I didn't dislike her.**

My chief complaint is that this book sort of fell apart towards the end: the last few scenes were lacking in the detail I expected and the ending was more like a cliffhanger, "haha-the second-book-isn't-out-yet-too-bad." It was at this point where I really saw the author's hand, since the characters were thrown a (quite random) conflict at them just to provide the premise of the second book. The ending left me confused, but after a bit I realized that the beginning and middle are strong enough that I'll be looking forward to the next installment eagerly.

When a novel manages to wrestle your attention away and then keep firm grasp of it, I can't help thinking there's something marvelous about it. Magic Under Glass did just that, and this book is a wonderful edition to YA fantasy and a promising start for Dolamore.

I give it a 8.5/10. If you like Libba Bray or Tamora Pierce definitely pick this one up.

*In my opinion 8/10 of every book in YA completely butchers romance--commentary on this coming up later today.

**which is very, very rare for me in YA nowadays.


Emma Michaels said...

I am so glad you liked it! I love Tamora Pierce, obvious by that my last, I don't know how many blogs, have been reviews of her novels for my new years challenge. This is definitely going to the top of my TBR pile. I have it out from the library right now so hopefully I will get to read it soon. Great review!!!!

Sandy said...

Oooh, I'm more intrigued because it DOES follow the Jane Eyre plotline. Didn't know that! So thanks for pointing that out :D I also didn't know that there was a love triangle... I assumed it was just one guy (or fairy prince/automan. whatevs.)

Excellent review, Choco!

Amelia said...

I enjoyed reading your review, Choco!
And I love those footnotes - I've had bad luck with unlikeable teen MCs (most of them are girls for some reason!) and yeah one of the main things that frustrates me about YA books is the botched romantic angle!
I CANT WAIT TO READ YOUR "THOUGHTS" ON THAT FURTHER! (as your footnote tantalizingly suggests!)

Tales of Whimsy said...

Sounds great. I need to read this.

emily said...

Um...Interesting. I really like the mad woman part:]
Sounds great! I'll have to read this.

Raven M said...

Ooh I really wanted to read this book. And it follows the plotline of Jane Eyre, you say? I definitely have to read this!

Great review <3

Hannah said...

I seriously just finished this book today and you pretty much just summed up how I feel about it.

BTW, I've got an award for you on my blog.

brizmus said...

Great review! I agree with pretty much everything you say! Awesome how wonderful it was!

Kirthi said...

"A bit of everything" WOHOO! Sounds like my cup of tea! Or even better, my type of chocolate bar! I really want to read this!

yuan said...

LOL at the review comment at the beginning. You and me both. (I mean, I knew I was going to be busy with school so I probably should have prepared some posts beforehand, but I was never terribly good at the preplanning stuff...)

Huh, I did not realize this is a retelling of Jane Eyre. =X Well, I usually like retellings even if I didn't enjoy the original source, and I still like the automaton aspect, soooooo still looking forward to this.

By any chance, did you manage to get the book with the new cover? =D

Looking forward to more reviews from you then! (No pressure though, lol)

MissA said...

I didn't know it was like Jane Eyre either. Very interesting. I love tamora Pierce and Libba Bray so I'm even more excited to read this book. I'd been reading some mixed reviews on MUG so I planned on reviewing it but I wasn't sure when. I'm going to try and get a copy soon (field trip to the bookstore! haha)

I love your reviews and I'm especially pleased that Magic Under Glass gets YA romance right. And I love confusing love triangles because that's how real life can be, there isn't always a clear cut good vs. bad choice.

Monster of Books said...

Nice review!! This was a good read!!

Anonymous said...

I felt the exact same way about the end of the book. The beginning had such a luxurious set-up, and then it sped up in a goofy way. Still, very enjoyable.

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