By Jaclyn Dolamore
Published by Bloomsbury
In Jaclyn Dolamore's first novel for youngsters, we have a new romance fantasy with just the right amount of fantasy and romance to prevent the whole novel slipping into silliness. Dolamore mixes her elements well, writing with confidence and creating credible fantasy.
Set in a far-off land, Magic Under Glass is a rags-to-riches, happily-ever-after story with just a hint of Jane Eyre. Namira, 17, dances in a run-down music-hall where men ogle her every move. Namira ran away from home in the hopes of finding her fortune in the big city after her mother died and her father squandered the family savings.
Recently, she has noticed a handsome, well-dressed man in the audience, not the usual type of music hall customer. They watch each other. Could this be the handsome hero come to save her from her seedy life?
Magic, fairies, spirits, mystery and love are all about to make a big entrance into innocent Namira's life. The gentleman in the audience is Hollin Parry, a sorcerer who is looking for a girl to sing with a piano-playing automaton that he has just acquired. Hollin whisks Namira off to his country estate where she is introduced to the clockwork man who plays the piano.
Life seems to have taken a definite turn for the better. But there are dark secrets looming in the shadows of Hollin's mansion. The servant girls in the house think that the automaton is haunted. When the machine starts playing tunes that seem to carry a message, Namira is intrigued. At first, she doesn't understand the communications, but she soon realises that the clockwork man is asking for help.
Around the same time, Namira hears that Hollin is supposed to have a mad or even dead wife hidden away somewhere in the house. Something distinctly odd is going on in Hollin's household.
Namira discovers the automaton is really a fairy prince trapped inside the clockwork body. Prince Erris is the rightful heir to a magical kingdom - so why is he trapped inside a mechanical body? Namira starts to take dangerous chances to release the prince from his strange prison, and the two of them fall in love. Releasing Erris becomes an exciting race against time, with the love between the two becoming more and more hopeless as further secrets emerge from the darkness.
Dolamore juggles quite a few imaginative ideas in Magic Under Glass, and with skilful writing and a solid build-up of place and character, she keeps the whole novel nicely on track.
This is just the novel for readers who like their historical romances flavoured with a strong dose of magic and mystery.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com