Summary (from Goodreads):
Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for mere pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.
I’ve owned this book for a long time (years), before getting to it. The story always seemed super interesting to me (steam punk, fantasy, fairies, romance, and a kind of Nutcracker-sounding element to it). Also, I love that the girl on the cover isn’t the same white girl that is on every YA book. I think what prevented me from getting to this sooner was the fact that I was not a huge fan of the author’s mermaid book (which I read a couple of years ago).
I remember not being sure if the author was dumbing herself down for a YA audience or not. Her writing style is just very abrupt, and I remember feeling a little cheated out of not getting more details about the really interesting world she created. So, I went into Magic Under Glass rather cautiously. It has been recommended to me by other bloggers, and now a co-worker/fellow librarian. And well, I tend to take both blogger and librarian book recommendations rather seriously. And I’m glad I do.
I did end up enjoying this one more than the previous book I had read. I also came to learn that I don’t think the writer is trying to sound a certain way to appeal to young readers. I just think she has a very abrupt writing style. Again, she creates this amazing world. There’s magical councils, singing shows, fancy balls, magical spells, and fairies. The story of the defeated fairy royal line made me think of Russian historyy and the missing Anastasia. The magical council (that was both very powerful and easily manipulated) made me think a little of Harry Potter. And of course the enchanted automaton had me thinking of the ballet, the Nutcracker. So many good ingredients to make a story!
I still feel a little cheated. Like, I want to know so much more about this incredible world that I was able to get in this one book. Like when did the human/fairy animosity begin? Why did so many humans agree to the wall? Why was the council so easy to manipulate? And then there’s things about the characters that I wish I knew more about. Like why does everyone think keeping a wife in an attack is an acceptable solution? Why was the wife so okay with Nim? How could that many people not know the wife was alive? And once everyone got along together toward the end, why couldn’t Hollin Parry and his wife resolve things too?
I also was not a fan of Hollin Parry. It seemed like he was always looking for more than just singers to sing along with his doll. He came off as this rich, wife shopper, who didn’t care that he was already married…And everyone was so sympathetic toward him. Like really? I also was never a Mr. Rochester fan, so I guess it would make sense for me not to like this character.
And the love Nim has for Erris kind of came out of nowhere. I don’t want to call it insta-love because it did develop over time. I just don’t see how it did. They were never truly capable of meaningful conversation because Erris couldn’t really speak. I get why Nim felt sorry for him and wanted to save him, but I’m not quire sure when this turned into being in love with him, nor even really how one can fall in love with a doll you can’t talk to or learn about in any kind of depth. Maybe if more was said between them or if Nim had more time in the house away from the wife shopper, I’d think it was a little more possible.
I think all my problems though come back to the same thing. There just wasn’t enough. I loved the world. I loved the characters (even the bad ones). I could have loved the romance. And I could have loved the story more, if there was a little more background to it. I am interested in seeing where things go in the sequel, and I do want to read the sequel to see if some of the blanks are filled in and if more depth is given to such a richly fantastical world. The author doesn’t have my favorite writing style, but I did really enjoy her story. This gets an 8/10.