7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Title: Magic Under Glass

Author: Jaclyn Dolamore

Genre: YA (Fantasy)

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA/Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publishing Date: Dec 22 2009/ Feb 1 2010
Hardcover (UK): 240 pages/ Paperback (US) : 240 pages

Stand Alone or series: It can be read as a stand alone but the book has potential to be a “first” in a series. As of yet, there are no news about a sequel.

Why did I read the book: I’ve had it under my radar since I saw the cover and blurb online. When I received an unsolicited ARC I might have done my Dance of Joy.

How did I get the book: I received an ARC from Bloomsbury PLC.

Summary: Nimira is a music-hall girl used to dancing for pennies. So when wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing accompaniment to a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life. In Parry’s world, long-buried secrets are about to stir. Unsettling rumors begin to swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry’s involvement in a group of corrupt sorcerers for whom the rules of the living and dead are meant to be broken for greater power. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman is trapped within the automaton, she is determined to break the curse. But even as the two fall into a love that seems hopeless, breaking the curse becomes a perilous race against time. Because it’s not just the future of these star-crossed lovers that’s at stake, but the fate of the entire magical world.

Review: Oh my, Magic Under Glass was such a lovely read!

It is the reign of Lorinar, and Nimira is a performer, dancing and singing in search of fortune, after migrating from Tassim, in the far East when her family fell from grace. Whereas back home dancing and singing are hailed as fine arts, in Lorinar, she is nothing but a dark-skinned amusement, a novelty “trouser girl” who earns nothing but pennies and whose number comes after acrobats and trained dogs in the music hall she is employed at.

It is no surprise then that when a wealthy, dashing gentleman called Mr Parry offers to hire her as an accompaniment to his famous automaton , she jumps at the chance to have a better life. She even dreams of possibly becoming more to Mr Parry and that seems like a possibility too, when Mr. Parry seems to be taken with the girl. In her new life, with a large room all for herself in a grand estate, everything seems possible to Nimira.

But then, there is the automaton: a man-shaped machine that plays the piano when wound and who is said to be haunted. All the previous girls hired to sing along have quit the job as soon as they started, scared to death, claiming that the automaton mumbles to them. When Nim first sees the machine in the company of Mr Parry she is taken by how real it looks but doesn’t think the stories are real. When she is left alone with it though, she learns the truth – the automaton is alive! Her first reaction is to run away in panic like the others. But Nim is a practical young lady who knows that this job is a way out, her chance to be someone and she decides to stay. More than that, she tries to communicate with the automaton and learns that he in fact a Fairy Prince called Erris, cursed to be trapped inside the machine.

Nim takes upon herself to learn how this came to be and why and if there is a way to bring him back to life (is he even alive? If so, where is his body?), falling in love with him in the process. They cannot trust anyone, not even Mr Parry who may have more dark secrets than anyone can guess; His involvement with politics and sorcerers and the discord between Lorinar and the fairy kingdom is the background against the story is set.

At the very core of the novel the tale of the cursed prince is lovely and original (with a few shout outs to Jane Eyre) , the politics and machinations of the court, the magic in the book and the mention of necromancy for example were ever so interesting. However, it is all so short! All happens so fast, in number of pages and within the story, the denouement is so sudden, I was left bereft when I closed the book. Everything I read, the story, the characters, the romance were all so captivating I couldn’t help but to wish for more: more words, more pages, more time for the story to evolve, for the world to be fully realised so that I could understand it more. I knew little about Erris and how I wished I knew more, so that I could comprehend Nim’s feelings for him; more about Mr Parry so that I could understand his actions; more about that someone trapped in the attic, more about the magic system; as it stands , the novel is good, but it could have been so much more.

Having said that, there is one thing that truly stands out, one character that is marvellous and so fleshed out, that I fell in love and would like to name one of my favourite YA female characters this year. After reading so many wish-washy protagonists who almost disappear when coupled with the male characters (Hush, Hush’s Nora, I am looking at you!) , Nim was a breath of fresh air. For starters, she is dark-skinned and from a different culture; she is strong without being kick-ass: she cries when she has to cry, she fights when she has to fight, she adapts when she has to adapt. She is resilient, she is practical – she would consider marrying Mr Parry for the prospect of a stable life – and she is proud! Proud of her heritage and past, with a bit of vanity on the side since she knows she is passionate and graceful when dancing and singing. She is also very loyal and determined to help Erris even if that takes her to paths never before travelled.

If I have one wish, is that this book is granted a sequel – although it can be read as a standalone, the (somewhat darkish) resolution of the story is such that many things could still be explored and expanded. I certainly would love to see more of Nim and Erris and the world they live in – and the journey they are set to embark at the end of Magic Under Glass has much potential for further loveliness.

Notable Quotes/ Parts: A conversation between Mr Parry and Nim:

“Besides that, your voice has range and passion.”
Passion. Mother had repeated to me, time and time again, that while dancing was the highest expression of a woman’s physical beauty and grace, singing was the highest expression of her passion and depth of feeling. Sometimes I forgot I was an artist when my grace and passion went forever unapreciated, but Mr Parry has seen it. Perhaps my efforts had not been in vain.
“I hope you’ ll acept” Mr Parry Said.
“I accept most humbly and gracefully, sir. I only hope I won’t disappoint you.”
“You won’t” he said, and in those simple words, he gave me the one thing I wanted more than money: the aknowledgement that when he looked at me, he saw more than a trouser girl worth two cents’ admission.

Additional Thoughts: I can’t finish this review without mentioning the cover and title of the book. Even though both are lovely (and I like the UK cover as well), I am left wondering about them as I see no connection to the actual story inside! Why Magic Under Glass? I have no clue! There is no “glass” in the book, the impression I get from the cover is that something is “trapped” under glass but there is nothing of the sort. And another point: Nimira is supposed to be dark-skinned !!!! The book trailer captures that and is true to the book (check it out here) but the girl in the US covers is definitely white.

In short: Cover!Fail?

Verdict: A lovely, albeit way too short story, with a wonderful female protagonist. I could have done with more fleshed-out secondary characters and better executed plot but overall, I was simply captivated by Magic Under Glass.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

Reading Next:Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale

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  • Danielle
    December 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I can’t wait to read my copy. I love that: cover!fail. If only it were a proper description, we could all label the entire YA and romance section 🙂

  • Dade Bell
    December 21, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Actually, the cover does depict something in the book. Something found in the room of Hollin’s father. The fact that the cover pays homage to such a small, but creepy, aspect of the story makes it a cover!win! for me… 😉

  • Red
    December 21, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Dade you seem to be ignoring the fact that the person discovering the “something” in Hollin’s father’s room is WHITE. Thus people will look at the cover and assume that’s the heroine (like I did). It all goes back to the idea that publishers don’t think that people with brown skin can sell books. Maybe (white) readers don’t think we’re pretty enough or maybe they’re just not used to us and don’t want to be. Still, I’m getting sick of it.

    The book sounds amazing though. In my mind, Nim has dark-skin and that’s the way she’s staying 😀

  • Dade Bell
    December 21, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Red, I’m addressing this part of the review:

    I see no connection to the actual story inside! Why Magic Under Glass? I have no clue! There is no “glass” in the book, the impression I get from the cover is that something is “trapped” under glass but there is nothing of the sort.

    I am simply mentioning that there is something in the book that features glass, with something under it. 🙂

  • Ana
    December 22, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Dade – you are right! I forgot about that. But I guess this my point, such small part of the book, which doesn’t even have to do with the overall plot that much…I don’t know. I am not convinced. 🙂

    Red – and this is not the first time it happens this year alone- have you heard about the Liar cover? It just makes me really angry. and sad. 😥

    Danielle- can’t wait to see what you think! 😀

  • Peta
    December 22, 2009 at 8:24 am

    You girls will be the death of my bank balance… At least it’s a pre-order in the UK so that does not count as buying a book really…

  • Red
    December 22, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Oh sorry Dade I thought you were talking about the c over.

    And yes it is super super sad 🙁

    PS – Peta, I’m just glad I have a brother than works on chapters otherwise there’s no way I’ll be able to afford all the books I wanna read now thanks to these gals. 😀

  • Janicu
    December 25, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    *gasp* about the cover. I just won a copy of this book and it’s waiting for me when I get home from vacation. I will read and see how I feel about the cover..

  • susan
    January 17, 2010 at 10:22 am

    It seems Bloomsbury hasn’t given up it’s whitewashing ways. Thanks for pointing it out.

    I hope other YA bloggers will criticize the publisher for the cover and publicly acknowledge the limited number of POC titles and the even fewer POC covers.

  • How badly can you design a book cover?
    January 19, 2010 at 3:22 am

    […] But what’s the main character like? I got the following description from the book review by The Book Smugglers, emphasis by me: […] Nimira is a performer, dancing and singing in search of fortune, after […]

  • Magic Under Glass « Fangirl Saves the World
    January 24, 2010 at 6:00 am

    […] the whitewashed cover, and a new design is in the works. So, while you may be dying to read what sounds like a really fun fantasy novel, I suggest holding back and waiting until the new & improved cover is available at a bookstore […]

  • Kateland
    March 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I loved Magic Under Glass! I like the cover, but do wish that the girl depicted better fit the description of Dolamore’s main character: a girl with brown skin and glossy black hair. However, the aspect of the cover I loved was the dome of glass covering the fairies. This stuck with me throughout the book, and I agree with Dade in that it is a cover!win! Over all, this book was a wonderful read, one of the best books I’ve read in years. In my mind, Nimira is exactly as Dolamore described her, and the cover doesn’t change that.

  • Mercedes
    April 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    I totally loved ‘Magic under Glass’ it was the best book I’ve ever read. It was quite sad that Erris wasn’t completly freed from the spell that was cast upon him. I wish he was returned to his origanal form. None the less the book was still wonderful.

  • bob
    May 26, 2011 at 5:10 am

    hi i luv this book 🙂 it is soooooooooooooooo good ( i never read it) 😀

  • Dolamore, Jaclyn: Magic Under Glass « Calico Reaction
    May 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    […] Prince Erris. Yet don’t let this love story/triangle diminish Nim’s character. Ana from The Book Smugglers describes Nim as a heroine best: …there is one thing that truly stands out, one character that […]

  • Alyssa Hawk
    May 31, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    That isn’t the cover I have for the book. The cover on my book is perfect! It has a brown-skinned girl with beautiful long black hair. and she is holding a key with parts of the auto man surrounding her. 😛

  • gong chan shik
    July 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    😀 This book is awesomme!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😛

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