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Summary: Seventeen-year-old Nimira left her home country three years ago to seek her fortune across the sea in Lorinar as a singer and performer. She doesn’t expect to wind up working in seedy music hall and be labeled a “trouser girl” after the native dress of her country. Then along comes Hollin Parry, a young sorcerer who offers her a position performing with a piano-playing automaton. When Nimira accepts, she soon finds herself entangled in a whirlwind of murders, fairies, and dark magic.
What I liked: I think I savored nearly every page of this book, in part due to the fascinating setting. The worldbuilding was really interesting. It could have been fleshed out more, but given the younger audience the story is intended for and what the story demands, it was definitely satisfactory. Plus, I get the sense that Ms. Dolamore will fill in more edges of the map in future books. Basically, Lorinar (where the story is set) is a lot like 19th century England with the mentions of corsets, elevators, and electric lights. Don’t be fooled by the automaton, though – this is definitely more fantasy than steampunk. There’s much more sorcery here than mechanical tinkering.
I also liked Nimira, who narrates the story. She hails from Tiansher, equivalent to a country in Asia in our world, and as a result, she encounters a lot of sexism and racism. However, she’s strong enough to stand up for herself, brave enough to emigrate to a strange land to look for a better life, and smart enough to see some of Hollin’s hidden characteristics.
What I was not so crazy about: The book started off very strong and was quite gripping, but the plot seemed to slightly derail after the middle. Yes, some of the characters’ goals were indeed accomplished, but then things floundered up to the last chapter. Suddenly, there’s a huge sequel hook, and then the book ends. It just felt anticlimactic, like only half a book.
I think part of the problem stems from the time when magic becomes a prominent part of the story. Something about the way it worked didn’t click for me. The author skirts a potential magical deuxs ex machina, which was appreciated….but she does borrow very heavily from Jane Eyre. It was almost a surprise when that part of the plot unfolded as it did, just because I had been waiting for Ms. Dolamore to veer away from Ms. Brontë. She doesn’t. Or at least, not enough for me!
In short: I was a bit disappointed in where the book ended up going. Nevertheless, I’ll withhold some judgment until the sequel, Magic Under Stone, is released in April. I enjoyed this book tremendously, which is why it received:
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Something similar: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
Cover: I’m not at all sure what the title had to do with the story…there’s magic, yes. Under glass? No. However, the cover is pretty – I like the key and the subtle clockwork designs.