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Stella Matutina
books and stories and musings, oh my!
178. Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore 
29th-Dec-2009 01:03 pm
Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: December 2009 in North America; February 2010 in the UK
Pages: 228
Price: $21 CAD, $16.99 USD, £6.99 GBP
Status: keeper

LibraryThing Info

Amazon Info

Full Disclosure: I know the author and read three previous drafts of this book. I'm not exactly unbiased.

Nimira left her home country of Tiansher to make her fortune across the sea in Lorinar. Unfortunately, she arrived a few years too late--the market's fallen out of the foreign dancing girl business, and she's reduced to working in a taudry sideshow act. When Hollin Parry, a handsome young sorcerer, offers her a job accompanying his piano-playing automaton, she figures she might finally be on the track to a better life. But all is not as it seems at the oppulant estate of Vestenveld. Rumours abound, including one about the automaton himself. Could he really be haunted? Nimira dismisses the rumours as codswallop--until a surprising encounter convinces her that there may be more going on than meets the eye.

Ooh, my dears, I liked this! As I said above, I'd read early versions and so had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, but I still couldn't tear myself away. I purchased the book late in the evening, read until I couldn't keep my eyes open, and woke up the next morning eager to see how everything turned out.

The whole thing just made me squee with joy. Nimira is a fantastic protagonist reminiscent of one of Kristin Cashore's heroines. She's capable and intelligent, but she's not afraid to take the time she needs to deal with everything that's going on inside her. As she says, sometimes you just need to cry before you can do anything else. All the same, she's not about to wait around for someone else to make things better. She takes matters into her own hands as she navigates through the secrets of Vestenveld and struggles to free the man she loves, and she's willing to consider practical solutions over romantic ones.

The secondary characters aren't quite as well-drawn as Nimira herself, but they're still wonderful. I loved getting to know Erris, Hollin and Annalie. Even though Hollin, in particular, held views that often differed from my own, I could see where he was coming from and what had led him to act as he did. He's not an unsympathetic character, for all his faults.

And the world....! My dears, I would like to know everything about this place. Lorinar is an imaginary country, but it has strong ties to our own Victorian era. There's magic, yes, but there's also a keen interest in technology. The city of New Sweeling has streetcars and elevators and electricity (though it seems that gaslights are still more prominent). The story never quite reaches steampunkesque proportions, but there's definitely room for a deeper consideration of how the technology impacts these people.

Lorinar is just a small part of a large whole, too; we also hear a little bit about the faerie kingdoms to the west and the countries back over the ocean. I'd love to visit them all. I believe Dolamore's next novel is set in the same world, albeit in a different location and an earlier era. I can't wait to read it--and let's all hope we also get a sequel to this book!

Believe me, y'all want to get your hands on this. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a lighter fantasy read.

In fact, I want you to read it so much that I'm willing to buy you a copy. Click the link for the full contest details!

4 stars

Strange Asides:

I was disappointed with the original cover. Don't get me wrong, it's gorgeous, but the model appears to be Caucasian--and Nimira's a woman of colour. It would've been nice to see a cover that reflected her ethnicity, especially after Bloomsbury's LIAR controversy early this year.

At least they corrected their mistake and reissued the book with the lovely cover you can see at the top of this post.

Y'all oughta check out the book trailer, too:

Other Reviews:

Carrie's YA Bookshelf
Reading Rocks
Pure Imagination
Steph Su Reads

Have I missed your review? Please let me know so I can add it to my list!
Ethereal Fantasy
29th-Dec-2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
My cover was already made before the LIAR controversy, of course... It would be nice to see a darker girl on the paperback...the hair, particularly...Nimira's hair is her best feature! Although I love that dress. =( It will be nice when the industry straightens this out. Ever since Liar I've noticed a lot of books with white girls on the cover and non-white girls in the pages...

Well, anyway, I'm glad you liked the final version! I'm so eager to dip back into that world again...
29th-Dec-2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
The model does have nice hair, but it's not at all how I pictured Nim's!

I'm so looking forward to your next book! I know it's probably way too early, but has there been any word on a possible release date?
29th-Dec-2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
No...but, I mean, I didn't know MUG's release date until like, three months before it came out! I doubt it would be more than a year from now, at least...and I'm HOPING for earlier. We're aiming to have it turned in earlier than MUG, so there would be time.
30th-Dec-2009 12:58 am (UTC)
I want to read this. I have been hearing good things!

- Kailana (http://myreadingbooks.blogspot.com)
30th-Dec-2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
You should totally enter my giveaway, Kelly!
17th-Jan-2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
I'd missed this review when you posted it (stupid getting-ridiculously-behind-on-blog-reading), but the whole cover thing was brought to my attention today when a few bloggers posted about it. I don't want to hurt the author - especially when the book sounds like such a great one - but I'm mad at Bloomsbury for doing this again :\ And I think it's important that bloggers talk about it. UK edition I guess? Sigh.
17th-Jan-2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
A dark-skinned model would be more than nice, it would be the right thing to do. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I can tell, if the book had had a POC on the cover, I would have paused and even read it, I'd likely would have contacted the author and promoted the book because there are too few books with POC leads even more so in fantasy since the publishing industry seems to think we only need a handful of African American writers who write historical fiction focusing on slave narratives and Civil Rights.

Newflash: POC teens want the same breadth of stories as all teens do. The industry needs to leap into the 21st century.

Thanks for the review.
17th-Jan-2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
Thankfully, there do seem to be more fantasies with POC protagonists these days, but all too few of them have covers that reflect their characters' ethnicity. I can only think of a handfull, and some of those are reissues that didn't originally sport accurate cover art.
17th-Jan-2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, even the UK edition is a little iffy. It's a bit hard to tell due to the scale of the painting and the way the artist manipulates the light, but it looks like that girl may be Caucasian, too. (Though, I didn't want to jump to conclusions about this cover model, either. I've known people with similar skin tones who were not of Caucasian descent, and it can be tough to peg these things from a picture... but at the same time, Bloomsbury must realize that most of the people who see this cover will assume the girl is Caucasian. I would've liked to have seen an overtly Eastern model).

This is an issue I worry about a lot, since it could very well impact my own books. I'd prefer not to have a character-centric cover, but if that's what the publisher decided upon I'd hope they'd instruct the cover artist to give Sim and Bear brown skin. I'd be angry if they made them white.
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