Monday, February 01, 2010

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore


Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act – singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life.

In Parry’s world, however, buried secrets stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry’s involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport.

When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton’s stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.

What can I say about Magic Under Glass that's not going to be sung from the rooftops by other reviewers and writers?

Ignoring utterly the palawer set up in the media about the US cover, this little book published by Bloomsbury both in the UK and the US, is so much more than what it first appears.

Initial thoughts were: a fun, lighthearted frolic with fairies. What it really is is something altogether more. Much more.

Magic Under Glass has at it's heart the motto: true love will overcome everything, including the impossible.

So if you think it's a bit sappy and a bit wet, because you know, it's about the L-word, please be aware that you're wrong. Yes, it's the story of an attractive girl from a foreign country falling in love with a fairy prince cursed to live in the body of an automaton (a robot). But it's also about breaking convention, standing up for yourself, for others and taking chances on the utterly impossible, about facing racism (and not necessarily the way you think it) and being brave.

I was surprised that this entire world Nimira (our heroine) finds herself in is described so adequately with the minimum of fuss. Ms. Dolamore's world creation is excellent, as is it's history and it's ongoing animosity between the fairy race and the humans. All put together in what seemed a nutshell so we can get on with the real story. That of Nim trying to cope with the reality of being a trouser-girl. A singer and dancer with a rather dodgy troupe of performers in something that borders on our European Paris/Prague. Back in the day performers were the elite, put on pedestals and admired for their creativity and beauty. Nim's mother married a man of high rank in their country of Tassim - which sounds like a combination of India and Arabia from 1001 Nights. After her mum passes away Nim decides to head off on her own and comes to New Sweeling where Hollin Parry, a sorcerer sees her perform and decides to offer her a job.

Nim is so desperate to make a success of herself, she sees herself as a failure, that she takes up the position Hollin offers - to sing with an automaton - although she has her doubts.

Hollin treats Nim well, genuinely keen for her to make a positive impression on society but in treating her well, he sees her as an object, someone of interest, exotic and not really a person. Their relationship grows and there are glimpses of Hollin showing his own preconceptions on how to treat women in general, that they don't understand complicated political matters etc.

Nim is a fantastic heroine. Strong, confident, passionate, compassionate and clever, she manages to figure out that the rumour about the automaton is true: he does move and he does try to talk. She uses the one thing they share, music, to communicate and soon we learn the true nature of the automaton. Slowly but surely the rest of the story clicks into place and it's just utterly excellent.

I wish I could sit here and tell it to you but trust me when I say that Jaclyn Dolamore does a much better job at it than me. Her writing is understated whilst being lyrical. Magic Under Glass is a rare book that has that true cross-over appeal into various genres, the least being young adult to adult. It's a fairy tale story, mixed with a bit of fantasy and steampunk, splashed with good old fashioned intrigue and of course, the underlying love story. It's an immediate favourite and I hope you fall under it's spell and enjoy reading it too.

Magic Under Glass is being published by Bloomsbury UK in February. Find author Jaclyn Dolamore's website here.

1 comment:

Yunaleska said...

I loved this book! Glad you enjoyed it. I'm hoping for a sequel...