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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater - Review


OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE

Buy Half a Soul HERE



OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Olivia Atwater writes whimsical historical fantasy with a hint of satire. She lives in Montreal, Quebec with her fantastic, prose-inspiring husband and her two cats. When she told her second-grade history teacher that she wanted to work with history someday, she is fairly certain this isn't what either party had in mind. She has been, at various times, a historical re-enactor, a professional witch at a metaphysical supply store, a web developer, and a vending machine repairperson.

FORMAT/INFO: Half a Soul was published by Orbit Books on June 28th, 2022. It is 239 pages long, split over 19 chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. It is told in third person from Dora's POV. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: After an incident during her childhood, Theodora Ettings only possesses half of her soul. The result? Fleeting emotions don’t particularly register with her, leaving her prone to misreading social cues and to coming off as rather cold and aloof. Her relatives don’t particularly know what to do with her, only pray that her peculiarity doesn’t ruin her cousin’s chances of marriage. But during the height of the London season, Dora catches the eye of the Lord Sorcier, a figure as shunned as he is magically powerful. Dora and the Lord Sorcier end up entangled in the mystery of a strange curse that seems to be sweeping through London, and it may be that Dora’s unique circumstances might be the key to stopping the deadly affliction.

Half a Souls is the perfect beach read, a blend of regency drama and fantasy that is easily consumed in an afternoon or two. Heavy fantasy readers should know going in that this is a regency story first and a fantasy tale second. In other words, about 75% of the tale is balls, marriage dealings, courtship rituals, and investigating the misdeeds of impoverished work houses, while 25% of the book is magic spells and fae machinations. If this sounds like the perfect balance, congratulations! This story is definitely for you.

It’s also good to know that each entry in the Regency Faerie Tales series is a standalone book, loosely connected in the same universe. Half a Soul is a contained, complete arc, complete with a Happily Ever After, so pace yourself for a short but enjoyable adventure (especially as about 30 pages of the U.S. edition are actually a prequel novella). While personally I wish the fae and magical elements had been a bit more evenly spread throughout the story (they don’t truly appear until the final few chapters) that has as much to do with me as with the book itself. Due to my own penchant for going into books blind, I thought these books were a larger connected story and that this book was setting up a larger mystery; instead a nice tidy ending snuck up on me and everything was wrapped up much more quickly than anticipated!

That said, Half a Soul is exactly the light frothy tale you would hope for in a Pride and Prejudice-esque adventure. There is scandal and speculation over couples who dance more than twice together at a ball, there are courtship rituals that must be rigorously obeyed, and heaven forbid a man and a woman spend time alone together. All those social morays are delightfully sent up in a satirical scene towards the end of the book in a manner that had me chuckling.

I also really enjoyed how the author portrayed the lead character’s “half a soul” condition. Dora’s passion was essentially taken from her as a child, leaving her only capable of feeling emotions if they are deep and have a “long tail.” Momentary fear or embarrassment (“short tail” emotions) don’t affect her, even though she knows they should. Dora never comes across as dumb but as if viewing events from a long distance away.

CONCLUSION: Half a Soul is a wonderful escape, with witty ballroom banter and a dash of magic on top. I’m looking forward to the other two books in the series, especially since they’re all being released this summer!

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