Arminzerella's Reviews > Magic Under Glass

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
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's review
Jun 04, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: faeries, fantasy, automatons, ghosts-and-spirits, magic, mages-wizards, young-adult-fiction, romance, borrowed-from-the-library
Read in May, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Nimira is a singer/dancer (what’s known as a ‘trouser girl’) trying to make her way in the world. When a mysterious gentleman shows up at her act and offers her a job singing with his piano-playing automaton, Nimira jumps at the chance. With the salary he’s offering, she’ll be able to save some money to send home to her family (which has fallen from grace and become impoverished). There’s one catch, however. The other girls who have worked with the automaton claim that it’s haunted. Nimira, however, discovers that the automaton is really an enchanted fairy prince – caught up in a conflict that is not of his making. After sharing their stories, Nimira and the Prince (Erris) fall in love, and Nimira searches for a way to restore Erris to his former self. She must call on dark magic in order to do so, and her new employer, Hollin Parry, interrupts the transformation. After successfully fighting off the dark spirits that threaten to overwhelm them, they find that Erris is still clockwork, although now he can speak and move independently (he still needs to be wound in order to act). Parry wants to surrender him immediately to the council, but Nimira convinces him to stand up to the council instead – particularly Smollings.

Smollings is found to be a murderer, but it’s a bittersweet victory for Nimira and Erris in the end. Although Erris is now free, he has lost the glamour that made him seem corporeal and Nimira is horrified by his new appearance. Parry, however, learns of a sorcerer who might be able to help them. And, presumably, there will be a sequel where this story plays out (possibly several, as there are still potential hostilities with the fairies).

This book received a lot of publicity over its cover image/jacket, because the original one didn’t accurately portray Nimira (she’s dark-skinned, and the original shows a fairly light-skinned young woman). But readers also raved about how wonderful the story was, which built it up a lot in my head. I thought the conceit was a bit weird – a singer automaton act, really? That’s not a job I would take. The last automaton story I read (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) I found rather bizarre in not a good way (which is possibly where my initial gut reaction to Magic Under Glass truly originates). This just takes place in such a short period of time/pages that it’s hard to grasp what the world is really like and where the characters are coming from (what is magic in this world, why are there these tensions between the fairies and the humans, what does Nimira really want from life – so many questions!). I found Nimira and Erris’ feelings for one another hard to believe – all of the relationships seem rushed. The fact that Parry has a wife possessed by spirits and hidden away in an upstairs bedroom (whom he conveniently forgets in his desire to run off with Nimira) was a little too Jane Eyre, and also weird. And then there’s the detestable Smollings who has everyone under his finger and no compunctions about taking out any competition. He’s just cruel for no good reason. While this is more detailed than many of the series fantasies being published for young adults, it still lacks substance. I hope its sequels are richer experiences.
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