ISBN: 978 1 4088 0212 0
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely, May 2010
This is an impressive debut from first-time novelist Jaclyn Dolamore, but it certainly had a journey and a half on publication. After the cover debacle that raged on the Internet over Justine Larbalestier’s novel Liar, it was quite unbelievable to most that publisher Bloomsbury could turn around and make the exact same mistake AGAIN. The international version of the book originally showed a very light-skinned model on the cover, despite it being made very clear in the book that the protagonist Nimira is “dark and foreign” (p. 5). Furore erupted once again, and once again Bloomsbury pulled the cover, replacing it with a more appropriate model. Clever marketing or complete ignorance, it’s difficult to say, but it did get this book a significant amount of exposure it may not otherwise have garnered as a debut book. It’s worth noting that the Australian cover has avoided the issue entirely (just as Larbalestier’s did) by being a romantic-style artwork instead of using a live model.
Nimira is a “trouser-girl”, an exotically foreign dancer and singer down on her luck. Her life is changed when the upper-class sorcerer Hollin Parry employs her to sing with the automaton he has purchased. Nimira suddenly finds herself in a new lifestyle, with new prospects, but all is not well in Hollin’s house, and certainly not everything is what it seems with the automaton. Nimira soon discovers the secret of the automaton, which throws her newfound happiness into disarry – can Nimira solve the strange mysteries that plague the Parry household and still stay true to herself?
I found this book very easy to read – Dolamore’s writing is lush and elegant, without being overly flowery. The world she has created is many-faceted and full of surprises; I liked that it wasn’t excessively complicated and was simply presented. However, I’m not sold on this as a Young Adult novel (which is how it has been marketed) – Nimira is living a grown-up life and acts as an adult, including falling in love with men older than she who are CLEARLY adult. There’s nothing inappropriate in content – in fact it’s very sweet – but it just doesn’t hit my YA buttons.
Magic Under Glass is not presented as a series, but the ending is sufficiently open enough that more books are sure to follow. I shall look forward to them.