Kristin obtained a BA in English Literature and an MA in teaching. Currently teaches English Lit and ESL at an International High School.
Artificial humans are made out of wood, wool, and magic and sold as concubines to those rich enough to afford them. These "dolls" contain the soul of a human, and they are told that they are atoning for sins in a past life.
I chose to give this book a chance because I had read Dolamore's young adult trilogy Magic Under Glass, which was about a girl who was hired by a rich sorcerer to sing with an automaton that plays the piano. The automaton turns out to have the soul of a real person trapped inside of it.
Once again, this series also deals with souls trapped inside of beings, girls forced into servitude, and sorcerers; however, it is geared toward a 17+ audience.
Velsa, a Fanarlem doll, turns 18 and is finally available for purchase. Every evening the dolls that are available for purchase wait in sitting rooms for the men who stop to see them. Velsa does not want to be owned and she worries she will end up with a cruel man as her master.
After two weeks of being up for sale, she is purchased by a young sorcerer named Grau, who is not what she expects. Grau is kind and treats Velsa with respect. She will be his companion during his travels. Velsa will not be kept locked up in a home, she will get to see the world.
Velsa must constantly face scrutiny and hatred from both the Hamarlan, "real people," and the Fanarlem. To the Hamarlan, she is a servant created to please men. To other Fanarlem, she is a pampered pet who causes dangerous feelings of jealousy.
First, let me say that this book is definitely worth reading, and I plan to continue the series.
With that said, I did find it a quick read. It only took me about 4–5 hours to read the 200 pages. The book has closure and doesn't leave any cliffhangers, but there is definitely more story to be told.
One thing that I wondered was what the female author was trying to communicate by having an indentured female character who is basically used to serve men's needs, though there do seem to be similar themes that appear throughout her books, such as the idea that souls can be placed in objects. One quote that really annoyed me was:
"You're besotted with her, aren't you? It happens sometimes, I suppose, but remember, she's a Fanarlem. It benefits her to be kept in her place. Every time you bed her, you're helping her learn humility and submission" The quote goes on to say, "...when she dies, the fates will look kindly on her. You don't have to feel guilty about enjoying her."
This quote really made me question why these souls have to endure such cruel treatment as a punishment for something they did in a past life. It isn't clear. In fact, Velsa goes to a telepath who reads her soul, and we discover that she doesn't even have a tainted soul to begin with and is suffering needlessly. I am sure this will figure into the later books and be a revelation, especially because the rival race of telepaths the Miralem seem to already know this information and try to rescue the Fanarlem. But, it really bothered me that there is no explanation for why the Fanarlem must suffer in this way. I am hoping this will be explained in other books. Maybe I am being too philosophical, but I also wondered how the souls of those treating the Fanarlem in cruel ways don't become tainted. It seems to me those are the truly cruel people in the novel. I feel like by helping to "redeem" the souls of the Fanarlem, they are really condemning their own souls.
One other thing I was wondering was something a bit irrelevant, but still made me wonder. At one point, Velsa is reading a book entitled Jane of the Moors where the character meets a strange man, the master of the house, out on the moors. Does the plot sound familiar? It should if you have read the classics. More interesting though, is the fact that the man on the moors is named Rochester. I wonder why Dolamore intentionally mixed the plots and characters of two books together. The character's names are from Jane Eyre and the plot from Wuthering Heights. It was obviously on purpose, but to what end? Was she trying to be funny? Was she just not able to think up a plot for the book Velsa was reading?
I really recommend that you read this book. I also recommend that you read Dolamore's Magic Under Glass series if you haven't already. I recently found out that the Magic Under Glass series was adapted into a live musical. Check out the clip below from the musical.
Magic Under Glass Live
© 2017 Kristin