Nimara and Jane Eyre have a lot of similarities. They are both odd ducks who take risky positions in isolated country houses where they discover dark secrets and drama-driven romance. Of course, since this is the modern age, Nimara has a lot more scope for action.
She falls in love with a musical automaton who must be wound with a key, and can only communicate with her one letter at a time, like a ouija board. It speaks a lot for her perseverance and/or wishful thinking that they manage a relationship like this.
Meanwhile, her employer is falling in love with her, with all the creepiness inherent in an inequitable relationship where he has all the power and she has talent.
Nimara and her clockwork beloved are arrayed against dark powers, and work to help restore the status quo.
I liked Nimara as a character. I think it would be easy to write her off an a victim of circumstance, but then she says things like
I felt a little sick, but pretending was a woman’s lot, more than ever on foreign soil.
Erris had enough to worry about without needing to console me. He tried to put his arms around me, and I turned away. “No. I’m not crying like one of those girls— who only wants to be held.” “You do want to be held.” His arms went around me from behind. I felt his strength. “And how I’ve wanted to hold you, Nim. I do like Nim. And I don’t just mean the name.”
I stopped pushing. I let out my breath. Some resistance inside me broke, letting in a rush of something I’d never allowed before. I had never been so weak; yet I had never been so strong.
I really like that she is aware of her societal place and roles as a woman, and accepts that sometimes it is dangerous, and knows that sometimes she does not want to act like her conventional notion of femininity. She wants to be sure that Erris knows she is not manipulating him by crying.
Of course, it's hard to sustain that level of self-awareness through the book, but I feel like Dolamore did a pretty good job of it. I had a lot of sympathy for Nim here:
Sometimes, before you make any plans or resolutions, before you declare your heroic intent to persevere, you just have to cry.
And cry I did.
But then after her sobbing fit, she gets up and gets on with being useful and competent.
I am certainly looking forward to the sequel. This one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.
Read if: you like self-aware heroines who critically analyze their feelings and situation. You can't get enough automata.
Skip if: you don't like exploited-girl-in-peril stories, you want the villains to be more sypmathetic or understandable than pure evil.