Release date: 1st February 2010 UK
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Bloomsbury.com:
Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act – singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life.
In Parry’s world, however, buried secrets stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry’s involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport.
When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton’s stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.
There is an elegant feel to Magic Under Glass as if it should be a delightful piece of art that should be cared for and admired. Nimira, a "trouser" girl, is employed by the debonair Hollins to perform with his automaton pianist. As I think of this now, I feel a little sad that this adventurous and brave young woman is employed to accompany a machine. She comes from a different land and in a way, she too is a curiosity like the automaton to be gawped at and not really admired for her musical ability. This novel takes us into a realm of mystery and magic, of cultural differences, prejudice, power and ultimately of love. The automaton is not a machine but an enchantment which imprisons Erris, a fairy.
Magic Under Glass drew me in with Nimira's strong voice. She commands the book and is at its very heart. A character who is not living in her native land and has lost so much, her family and her home, yet she is emotionally strong and it is that strength that is vital to this story. I'm sure if I had been one of the girls Hollins employed to sing with the automaton, I would have been out of the door before his mechanical eyes even blinked. I am accursed with the power of an overactive imagination. Luckily, it is Nimira who narrates this story and not me and so as I read with her, I found myself falling for the mystery that was Erris. Nimira really is a character to aspire to be like.
The plot of this novel is fairly simple but it is the way that it is conveyed that makes this book so gloriously beautiful. The description is wonderful. The only part of the writing which I found a little stiff was the argument scene between Nimira and Hollins. The dialogue felt unnatural and pained but only in this small part of the book.
Overall, Magic Under Glass is an elegant magical tale which takes us on a journey of love and teaches us to stand up for what we believe in. A beautiful debut novel that will be enjoyed by fans of fantasy, historical fantasy and love stories. Highly recommended!
NB: Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me the book to review.