Magic Under Glass, by Jaclyn Dolamore (Bloomsbury 2010, ya, 208 pp), is a pleasantly diverting tale of enchantment set in a quasi-Victorian world shared by fairies and humans. As a young girl, Nimira came to Lorinor to seek her fortune dancing and singing as a "trouser girl." She is plucked from her life as an exotic curiosity by a handsome and wealthy young sorcerer, Hollin Percy, and called upon to perform in a much more unusual capacity--singing to the accompaniment of a beautifully made automaton.
She was not his first choice, but no other girl had been able to tolerate the company of the haunted automaton for long. And that's not all that's strange about Hollin Percy's ancestral home. There's the taxidermy display of garden fairies, the madwoman roaming the halls, the mysteriously unpleasant housekeeper, and Hollin's involvement in the sinister politics of the sorcerers who govern the country.
When Nimira realizes that a prince of the fairy people is trapped inside the automaton, she must choose where her heart lies....as well as trying to figure out how the heck a dancing girl can break a dark and powerful enchantment.
It's primarily a historical romance novel (though not too racy for younger teens), with a charming though predictable love triangle, given interest by the magic that permeates its setting and the mysteries that fill the plot. But the emphasis on the romance left me feeling a bit let down by the magical and political aspects of Dolamore's world-building. I wanted more backstory to the conflict between fairies and humans, and I was never quite convinced that Hollin was actually a sorcerer, nor am I sure I understood just who these sorcerers were and what they were up to.
In short, very diverting (as I said above), and a fine book for a rainy day read, but frustratingly falling short of truly riveting.
Edited to add: this is no longer the cover of the book, which was changed to more accuratly reflecte the way in which Nimira is described by the author, as discussed in detail in this post. The new cover is shown at right.
(review copy received from the publisher)