Book Review : Half a Soul

Book Review : Half a SoulHalf a Soul (Regency Faerie Tales, #1) by Olivia Atwater
Published by Orbit on April 5th 2022
Pages: 304
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four-stars

It's difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you're a young lady with only half a soul.
Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment - a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season - but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.
If Dora's reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.
Bridgerton meets Howl's Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.
Pick up HALF A SOUL, and be stolen away into Olivia Atwater's charming, magical version of Regency England!

After finding Olivia Atwater’s other book, Ten Thousand Stitches, in her Regency series so delightful and fun, I had to try another one of her books. To my surprise, I enjoyed Half a Soul even more than Ten Thousand Stitches, immediately connecting with the female protagonist, Dora, who never quite reacts to things as a proper young lady in regency England should.

 

“Dora smiled pleasantly at her cousin, though she felt as she did that something important was missing from behind the expression – something that had been there only minutes ago. ‘I suppose I should be upset,’ she said. ‘A normal person would be, wouldn’t they? But perhaps I will be upset later, after I have thought on it.’

 

But there’s a very simple reason for her inability to conform to the strict structures of societal norms, and it’s not because she’s a trailblazer or a rebel, but because a faerie stole part of her soul when she was a young girl. As she ages, the difference of her nature becomes more apparent, especially in contrast to her much-admired cousin, Vanessa. When it’s time for Vanessa to find a suitable husband in London, Dora has no choice but to tag along to events with high members of society. She makes acquaintance with the Lord Sorcier of London, Elias, another societal misfit, and the two grow closer as they seek to solve not only the dilemma of Dora’s soul, but also the mystery of workhouse children falling prey to a mysterious plague.

 

Despite only having half a soul, and even being viewed as a “doll” or a lesser being by others, Dora is anything but dull. I easily grew to love the character, who though always calm and composed due to her missing soul, is never quite sure what the proper thing to say or do is. This uncertainty leads Dora to both hilarious and precarious situations that I found highly entertaining. Any reader who has ever felt that they didn’t quite fit in, despite their very best efforts, will surely find something to love in both Dora and her love interest, Elias.

 

“’Vanessa!’ Dora said finally. ‘Are you not listening? There are people suffering much greater awfulness than me.’

‘Oh, Dora!’ Vanessa replied, with tears in her eyes. ‘There have always been people suffering more greatly than you, I am sure. But you are my cousin, and I love you best. Is it so wrong of me to put you first, after all the years you’ve borne this hardship?’

 

Like in Ten Thousand Stitches, I was quite delighted by the strong female relationships in the novel. So often, especially in fairy tales or regency novels, the female protagonist has an antagonist in the form of another female, whether an evil stepsister or a popular member of society, or the like. Time and time again, these women are pitted against one another to make the best marriage match or something similar, but this is not at all the case in author Olivia Atwater’s novels. Dora and her cousin Vanessa have an incredibly close bond. In a typical fairy tale, Vanessa would have used Dora’s predicament to her benefit, maybe even making her poor cousin into a servant or something similarity despicable, but this is not the case here. In fact, Vanessa even schemes to help Dora find a way to restore her soul and strives to be supportive of her cousin, even when it makes her uncomfortable. It’s truly its own type of magic to see more examples of women supporting women in these types of stories.

 

“‘…women who don’t understand personal boundaries always offend me,’ Elias said finally. ‘Dim-witted people offend me even further.’

‘Oh dear,’ Dora said mildly. ‘That must be very difficult indeed.’ Already, the fair-haired man had begun to turn away ,from her – but he glanced back at that.

‘Pardon?’ he asked. ‘What must be difficult, exactly?’

Dora smiled at him politely. ‘Being offended at yourself so very often,’ she said. “That seems a sad way to live, my lord.’”

 

And it’s certainly not just the love between these two ladies that is precious—the unfolding relationship between Dora and Lord Sorcier Elias is truly titillating to observe—and there’s also some romance sprinkled in in the background that is quite endearing as well. Though Elias originally seeks to outrage or shock the young lady he assumes is shallow and superficial, he is surprised to find Dora not only unflappable, but clever and quick on her feet. I reveled in their repartee and in watching their begrudging mutual respect gradually turn into friendship, and eventually, something even more dear.

 

“‘My troubles are not pressing.’ Elias managed a small, wry smile at that. ‘Do you know, Dora,’ he murmured. ‘I have known many human beings with a full soul to their name who do not have half so much compassion or practicality as you. On a poor day, I might assume this to be a kind of indictment of the human soul. But today, I believe that you might simply have an overabundance of both qualities.'”

 

When I sat down to read this Half a Soul, I certainly didn’t expect to read the novel in its entirety immediately, but that’s exactly what happened. I was simply enchanted by the characters, the humor, and the way the novel handled some of its darker themes, such as who bears the cost of privilege, and couldn’t put the book down. I just had to know what happened! And I was not at all disappointed with the ending to the novel. In fact, I was truly touched by the conclusion to Half a Soul, which I also found about as delightfully atypical for a fairy tale as I did the bond between Dora and Vanessa. Half a Soul is a novel that effortlessly proves that real magic doesn’t always come from a fairy godmother or a magic spell, but is in fact, found in the love and acceptance of ourselves and the ones that matter the most to us.

 

four-stars
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Book Review : Half a Soul - Blogging with Dragons

Posted July 19, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance

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