Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review: Magic Under Glass

I first heard about this book about a year ago due to it's cover controversy (more on that down below) and since the book sounded like it had an interesting premise I put it on my mental to read list (well, maybe my physical one too, it's about six pages long in Word so I keep losing track of what's actually on there) and picked it up once I got back to school. So, no cool stories here about tracking down the book so onto the review!

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolarmore
 This is the aforementioned cover controversy and I still can't believe that this happened twice in 2009. Seriously, the whole argument that "the book cover is there to sell the book" just doesn't work when "the book cover doesn't necessarily represent what the book is actually about," isn't that false advertising?  And another argument that always comes up is "white people don't buy books with people of color on the cover" and I have to ask, does that argument hold as much water as it used to? Yes I know that humanity is shortsighted, bigoted and over all not a nice species but I honestly think that someone's skin tone on the cover doesn't have as much impact as it used to  (especially if "what's on the cover isn't necessarily what's in the book"). Oh, and I like this cover, nice framing of the protagonist and the key is actually relevant to the plot too.
Summary: Nimira is a stranger in a foreign land who is trying to make her fortune (or at least enough to get by on) by singing in low class music halls. But one day she is hired by the sorcerer Hollin Parry to accompany a piano playing automaton which all the servants swear is haunted. Nimira is ready to move back up in the world and take the risk. Besides, even if the automaton is haunted she's sure to keep a level head and deal with the problems as they arise. 

The Good: Nimira is from a character archetype that I really like (I have no idea what to even call the archetype but bear with me). In many stories the hero is the hero because no one else can be the hero, they are special and no one else is quite like them. But here, anyone could have been the protagonist of the story but it's Nimira because of her personality and her cleverness, in a way she earns her position as the main character the way a lot of them don't. This also makes it easier for the audience to connect with the character and, in such a short book (ie, less plotting), that's key to holding the readers attention.

The Bad: Now that I think about it, why did Parry need someone to accompany the automaton (besides the obvious reason that it's a plot device)? And I thought it was odd, and creepy and possibly Sue-ish, that Parry was so taken with Nimira, especially when some of his past comes to light. I usually don't like stories where a girl has two boys interested in her because it comes off as forced and it did feel forced here, the characters seemed smitten with her, not in love. More pages might have helped but the plot is so basic (rescue the prince) that that might not have helped either. Also, in another moment of fridge logic, I'm not entirely sure what the title refers to (the stuff fairies in the library maybe?) and the title of the book should be clear after reading it, very odd.

I actually didn't mind the open ending of the book (I see a lot of people on Amazon saying that it needs a sequel but I think that what they are expecting in a sequel is too predictable, ie, not really worth the time reading) and I think the book ended nicely where it does. As for buying it, while the book was good it was kind of plain without anything truly new or stunning to make me fall completely in love with it. So, while I am very interested to see what this author comes up with next, I don't think I'll be purchasing this book anytime soon.