A Spark Unseen: A Review

A Spark Unseen by Sharon CameronWhen Katharine Tullman took charge of her uncle’s estate two years ago, she knew there would be difficulties. She knew there were people who might want Uncle Tully and his brilliant mind; people who might do anything to secure his genius for their own purposes.

She just didn’t know she would be dealing with these circumstances on her own.

Nearly two years have past since Lane Moreau left Katharine behind at Stranwyne, promising he would return to her when he could. Katharine has been able, if not happy, to wait until Lane disappears. When she wakes in the night to witness a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, Katharine knows it is time to leave her beloved home.

She travels to Paris hoping to find answers and security for herself and those she holds dear. If she is very lucky, she hopes she will also find Lane.

Unfortunately nothing in Paris is as Katharine expects. Soon enough she caught up in a web of deceit and the political machinations of two governments. Everyone wants something from Katharine or her uncle. But only Katharine can decide whom she can trust in A Spark Unseen (2013) by Sharon Cameron.

A Spark Unseen is the followup to Cameron’s debut novel The Dark Unwinding. This story picks up two years after the events of The Dark Unwinding in 1854. After the opening chapters the majority of the novel is set in Paris, France.

Unfortunately, this book suffers for the location change. Stranwyne is so vivid and evocative that it became a character in The Dark Unwinding. By comparison, the Parisian atmosphere in this novel feels dry and unexciting and much of the beauty was lost with the French backdrop. While Katharine is still a delightful heroine even her charms seem diminished as the focus shifts in this book to a convoluted arms race centered around Uncle Tully and his inventions.

Cameron maintains a sense of urgency and page-turning tension throughout the story that will keep readers engrossed. However there is so much plot and so much action that it left very little room for the characters that readers came to love in the first book (or new characters for that matter). So many details had to be packed into such a small space that the entire novel felt rushed and much more plot driven.

A Spark Unseen ties up the story of Katharine and Lane (and Stranwyne) decently enough–fans of The Dark Unwinding will likely want to pick up this sequel to see what happens next. Either way A Spark Unseen remains a very different reading experience from its predecessor, not to mention losing much of the whimsy found in The Dark Unwinding.

Possible Pairings: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason, The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

The Dark Unwinding: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon CameronKatharine Tullman does not want to send her uncle to an asylum anymore than she wants to please her horrible aunt by doing so. Unfortunately Katharine very rarely gets to do anything near what she wants–not if she ever hopes to secure even the smallest bit of independence for herself.

When Katharine arrives at her uncle’s estate she soon realizes that dealing with her uncle is not going to be as cut and dry as she had hoped. Instead of a lunatic she finds her uncle is an incredibly gifted but eccentric inventor. Instead of a ramshackle estate near ruin she finds a village filled with workers rescued from London workhouses.

As Katharine explores the estate and learns more about her uncle, matters become more complicated as she is taken in my a handsome apprentice and an ambitious student. Soon, she realizes she is starting to care about her uncle and his household more than she can afford to given rising questions of her own future. And her own sanity.

With mysteries all around her and far more at stake than she can imagine, Katharine will have to decide who to trust and who to protect in The Dark Unwinding (2012) by Sharon Cameron.

The Dark Unwinding is Cameron’s first novel.

In a delightful blend of suspense, steampunk and historical drama, Cameron has created a delightful world with compelling characters and a plot filled with twists and excitements. The story perfectly captures the wonder of Uncle Tullman’s estate and the urgency felt by everyone who wants to keep it safe.

The question of Katharine’s own sanity and the mysteries surrounding the estate add another satisfying dimension to the story. Best of all Cameron’s writing is wonderful throughout giving each character a unique voice and bringing them to life. The beautiful prose elevates what could have been a sensational action story into something more as Katharine is forced to confront of her own principles and grow as a character as her priorities (and loyalties) change.

The Dark Unwinding is a marvelous book that will linger with readers. The undercurrent of suspense and mystery make it a perfect read for a dark winter night.

Possible Pairings: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

Why I love Steampunk: A (sort of) Book List

Everyone has a favorite genre. Over the years, particularly since I started tracking books online and blogging, I’ve noticed that I gravitate toward fantasy more often than not. Lately I’ve been particularly fond of steampunk books—a genre that has happily been growing in popularity (and prevalence) among YA books lately.

The quickest way to explain steampunk is to imagine what would have happened if all of the technological advances of recent years had not happened. What if, instead, all of our biggest technological boons could be credited to the Victorian era? Instead of a world of electronics and microchips and plastic, we might very well have had the steam-powered, clockwork machines of brass or steel that are a signature of steampunk novels.

In addition to having some very neat machines, steampunk books tend to center around the Victorian era, or at least a re-imagined future that hearkens back to the nineteenth century, which means they also have some very cool clothes. There is something about the combination of witty dialog, snappy clothes, and outlandish technology that gets me every time.

If you want to dive into the magical world of gears and wonder that is steampunk, these books are great introductions:

Soulless by Gail Carriger: A social outcast for far more reasons than her spinsterhood, Alexia Tarabotti ends up in even worse social standing when vampires start disappearing and she is presumed responsible. The only thing to do is find out what’s actually happening in this blend of mystery, steampunk and the supernatural.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Though not strictly steampunk, this one still has all of the action and automatons a fan could want. Combined with romance and drama, this prequel to Clare’s Immortal Instruments series is a winner.

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel: There is only one thing you need to know about this book: it is a zombie steampunk romance. It has all of the excitement, inventions and quirks you would expect such a book to have. It is also a very clever riff on some classic conventions of both zombie movies and steampunk novels.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: In this alternate history the world is on the brink of the World War One as Darwinist nations equip their genetically engineered beasts and Clankers prepare their steam-powered walking machines for battle. At the center of the tensions are Alek, son of the assassinated Archduke of Clanker Austria-Hungary, and Deryn Sharp—a talented pilot stationed on a Darwinist airship and masquerading as a boy. By far one of the wittiest, most compelling books I’ve read.

Clockwork Prince: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra ClareOnly in London a short time, Tessa Gray’s world has already been turned upside by her brother’s betrayal and the discovery of her own strange ability. With the help of her unlikely Shadowhunter friends, Tessa has managed to make some order from the chaos of lies and mystery that surrounds her.

That order proves tenuous when rival Shadowhunters seek to displace Charlotte and her husband as heads of the London Institute. With Charlotte’s position in doubt, so too is Tessa’s place in the only home she has known since leaving New York City. If Charlotte can find the Magister, the villain cloaked in secrecy who wants to use Tessa’s powers in his mission to destroy all Shadowhunters, her position will be secured. But what if she can’t?

As Tessa helps in the search for the Magister, her future place in London is not the only dilemma presented to her. Why is Jessamine sneaking off so often? What madness leads Will to move so violently between passion and cruelty? Why does her heart still ache so much just to see him? And what of Jem, Tessa’s quiet, steadfast companion in all of this chaos?

With so many secrets, it is unclear which truths should be told and which should remain hidden in Clockwork Prince (2011) by Cassandra Clare.

Clockwork Prince is the second book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, preceded by Clockwork Angel. This trilogy is a companion to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series which begins with City of Bones.

It’s hard to review books that are part of a series because, particularly in the case of this book, you cannot read just one book. Things are even more complicated when the series ties back to a completely different, longer, series.

That said, if the idea of a quasi-steampunk Victorian London where the descendants of angels fight monsters (even while befriending one of those “monsters” who happens to be a warlock) this is the series for you. But don’t start here. Go read Clockwork Angel first then come back to read this review.

Clockwork Prince is simultaneously compelling and painfully frustrating. Many questions from the first book (particularly about Will’s . . . affliction) are answered. Some of the answers are satisfying and add to the story. Some of them add to the general annoyance I had while reading the book.

Neither being or knowing the author, I’m not really qualified to say what each character would or would not do. BUT, for this one reader, it felt a lot like every single character walked through the book doing the wrong things. Worse, they seemed to be doing them for all the wrong reasons. Will all be resolved to my satisfaction in book three? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Finding the answer to that question (aside from my genuine fondness for these characters and this series) is enough to guarantee I will eagerly await the release of Clockwork Princess in 2013.

Clare’s writing remains top-notch here. While the larger plot does take a back seat to character development, Clockwork Prince sets readers up for what is sure to be a stunning conclusion to a clever trilogy.

Possible Pairings: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Sabriel by Garth Nix,  Snowfall by K. M. Peyton, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Dearly, Departed: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Dearly, Departed by Lia HabelThe year is 2195. After being ravaged by war and harsh climate changes, humanity seems to have found some level of equilibrium in New Victoria. Desperate for a Golden Age to look back on at its founding, an ideal to strive for, New Victoria looked backward to the seemingly idealistic ways of Victorian society. And it is ideal, truly.

At least it is for most people. Nora Dearly should be happy with her position of mild importance in New Victorian society as daughter of prominent military doctor Victor Dearly. But she is more interested in politics and military history than she is in negotiating high society or being a proper lady. It all seems so pointless with her father dead and her finances in ruins thanks to an irresponsible aunt.

With so many problems, Nora gives the stranger with blind eyes outside her home little thought. That would prove to be a mistake.

Captain Bram Griswold never wanted to frighten Nora. He certainly didn’t want to kidnap her. He just wanted to ensure her safety. Unfortunately it is difficult to appear non-threatening when you are a corpse. Like the rest of Company Z, Bram is still in control of his faculties even if he is infected with the Lazarus virus. He can walk, he can talk, he can reason. He is even relatively intact compared to some of his friends.

One day, as it always does, the virus will win. Bram will lose control and instead of working with the humans, he will want nothing more than to eat them.

Until that day, Bram will do what he has to do. He will keep Nora Dearly safe. He will fight the deranged zombies that are beyond help. He will ignore the feelings he is starting to develop for Nora because no good can ever come from that.  As he keeps telling himself over and over.

But then Nora starts to trust him. And everything Bram thought he knew about the Lazarus virus and New Victoria is thrown into doubt. With the whole world changing maybe a human girl and zombie boy really can be together–for a little while at least in Dearly, Departed (2011) by Lia Habel.

Dearly, Departed is Habel’s first novel. It is also the first book in the uniquely named “Gone with the Respiration” series.

Steampunk has been gaining lots of steam recently as a relatively new addition to the wide and wonderful world of Young Adult books. Like many other successful steampunk books, Habel puts her own singular spin on a newly imagined Victorian society with not only a post-apocalyptic world of the future but also a zombie apocalypse. Oh and a completely impossible, incredibly star-crossed romance.

Basically, the appeal of this book can be captured in three words: Zombie Steampunk Romance.

As those words suggest, Dearly, Departed has a lot going on but it all works. Habel blends inter-connected story lines while managing to create a coherent, layered story with multiple unique narrators in a sleek, exciting story full of action and pathos.

Dearly, Departed stands out as a clever, funny spin on both zombie and steampunk conventions with a top-notch heroine and a zombie hero with a heart of gold.

Possible Pairings: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Soulless Gail Carriger, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

You can also read my exclusive interview with Lia Habel!

Sound good? Find it on Amazon: Dearly, Departed

Goliath: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Goliath by Scott WesterfeldAlek and Deryn have circumnavigated most of the globe aboard the Darwinist airship Leviathan as they try to end World War I. Along the way, perhaps Alek will be able to claim his position as the true heir to Clanker Austria’s throne. And perhaps Deryn will finally be able reveal her biggest secrets to Alek, namely that she is not just a girl but that she loves him.

But as the Leviathan flies first to Siberia and then over the United States and Mexico, bigger problems arise as Deryn’s secrets begin to unravel with alarming speed and Alek turns to a misguided lunatic in his continued efforts to end the War. The truth is supposed to set you free, but will it be enough to not just save Alek and Deryn but also end a war in Goliath (2011) by Scott Westerfeld (with illustrations by Keith Thompson)?

Find it on Bookshop.

Goliath is the phenomenal conclusion to Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy which began with Leviathan and continued in Behemoth. It is also the perfect end to what is essentially a perfect trilogy. Goliath truly exceeded my already very high expectations.

I worried about this book. What would happen to Deryn? Where would Alek end up? What about Alek and Deryn together? There were so many potential pitfalls and unfortunate conclusions. Westerfeld avoided all of them.

Goliath is a truly satisfying end to a trilogy that was filled with actions and surprises from the very first pages to the very last. The whole series is a must read for anyone interested in speculative fiction, alternate histories or, of course, steampunk. As its dedication suggests, Goliath is also the perfect book for readers who appreciate a long-secret love story finally revealed. Truly wonderful.

Possible Pairings: We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett, The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Jackaby by William Ritter, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Firefly (television series) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel and movie), The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (television series), Serenity (movie)


The Boneshaker: A Review

The Boneshaker by Kate MilfordStrange things can happen at a crossroads. If a town is near that crossroads, well, strange things can happen there too.

Arcane, Missouri is filled with odd stories about the town and the crossroads. Just ask Natalie Minks. She might only be thirteen, but she already knows all about the eerie goings on at the crossroads thanks to her excellent storyteller (and terrible cook) mother.

As much as Natalie loves a good story, she loves machines and gears more. Her father is an expert bicycle mechanic and Natalie is learning too–it’s 1913 after all and machines are popping up everywhere.

Even, it turns out, in traveling bands of snake oil salesmen.

Doctor Jake Limberleg’s Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show promises entertainment, information, and a cure for any and all ailments. Natalie is enchanted by all of the bicycles and automata the show brings along with its tents and patent medicines. But she can’t shake the nagging feeling that something is wrong, horribly wrong, with the medicine show and its four Paragons of Science.

To figure out how wrong the medicine show is Natalie will have to get to the bottom of an age-old bargain, tame the fastest bicycle in the world, cash in a dangerous favor, and ask a lot of costly questions–all before the medicine show can take Arcane for everything it’s worth in The Boneshaker (2010) by Kate Milford with illustrations by Andrea Offermann.*

The Boneshaker is Milford’s first novel.

The Boneshaker tackles a lot of narrative ground with unexplained visions, mysterious automatons, strange bargains, and a whole town’s secrets. The ending of the story leaves a lot up in the air with Natalie’s future and even her place in the town. The narrative also takes a lot of time to tie things together and explain details of the lore surrounding Arcane as well as to explain certain things Natalie begins to learn in the story. The premise is interesting and Natalie is a great protagonist but the whole package was not quite as well-realized (or resolved) as it could have been.

That said, Milford writes like a natural storyteller. The opening pages of this story draw readers in with prose that sounds like a traditional folk tale and a setting that immediately evokes the era and feel of a midwestern town at the turn of the last century. Everything about The Boneshaker is charming from Natalie and her cantankerous bicycle to the vivid illustrations by Offermann that bring Natalie’s world to life.

This story is well-written and will find many fans in readers of fantasies and historical novels alike.

*The Boneshaker is not to be confused by a similarly titled but completely different book by Cherie Priest called Boneshaker.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Exclusive Bonus Content: This is probably just me, but The Boneshaker reminded me a lot of Plain Kate–the book that I had the most issues with from 2010. Like Plain Kate this book starts with the whimsical feel of a light(ish)-hearted middle grade novel. Then by the end it veers into dark (very dark in the case of Plain Kate) territory that grounds the story more firmly in the young adult audience area. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it felt like a big leap here that did not work effectively for me (though as I said, I might be particularly touchy about this since I’ve noticed it in several books already).

The Clockwork Three: A Review

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. KirbyWhen Giuseppe finds the green violin, he doesn’t think it will help him escape. He doesn’t think anything can help him get away from his ruthless padrone and back to his home and his siblings in Italy–certainly not a violin, even if it is so much finer than the one he usually plays on street corners every day.

Frederick doesn’t need to escape anything, but he must become self-sufficient–of that he is certain. Being apprenticed to Master Branch is fine for now. But the sooner Frederick can complete his clockwork man, the sooner he can become a journeyman. The sooner that happens the sooner he can have his own shop–his past at the workhouse left far behind.

Hannah has already given up so much she scarcely knows what to want. Since her father’s stroke she has had to leave school and take work as a maid. Her family is just scraping by on her meager salary. When Hannah hears talk of a secret treasure, she starts to wonder–could it be the way back to her old life? If she can find it can she really solve all of her family’s problems?

Giuseppe, Frederick and Hannah don’t know each other. Under normal circumstances they might never have met. But soon the magic of the green violin and other strange happenings bring these three children into each others lives. Together they might solve all of their problems and make their dreams come true–if they can learn to trust each other and themselves along the way in The Clockwork Three (2010) by Matthew J. Kirby.

The Clockwork Three is Kirby’s first novel.

This book is an interesting blend of realism and fantasy, adventure and steampunk. Kirby weaves the elements together seamlessly creating a city so real it is easy to forget that the backdrop of this story is fictional.

The story takes a sudden turn near the middle of the story as some of those fantasy and steampunk elements manifest. They work and they add to the story, but part of the semi-realistic charm of the story is lost in favor of more fantastical elements. Perhaps because this turn appears so late in the story some aspects of the plots resolution felt rushed or abrupt although still satisfying after a fashion.

Kirby’s writing is particularly excellent at the beginning of the story as he subtly brings the children together in chance encounters until all of their stories overlap. The writing is atmospheric and often quite charming.

Possible Pairings: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, Clockwork by Phillip Pullman, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Unicorn’s Tale: A (Rapid Fire {Nathaniel Fludd}) Review

The Unicorn’s Tale by R. L. LaFevers, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (2011)

The Unicorn's Tale by R. L. LaFevers, illusrated by Kelly MurphyBook 4 in the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series

Since I have already reviewed book 1, book 2 and book 3 of the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series I decided that for book 4 I didn’t need to go in depth with background information. SPOILER: I loved all of the books. Much as it pains me to say this, we’re really at the point in the series where you have to read the previous books to keep up.

In addition to featuring one of my favorite mythical creatures (I’m on Team Unicorn) this book gets back to basics established in book one. Nathaniel and Aunt Phil stay together for the entire story, Cornelius the Dodo is back. And we learn more about Nate’s parents.

The mythological beast story was charming and worked well with the more ongoing story of Nathaniel’s missing parents. We are also treated to an excerpt from the Book of Beasts (instead of a glossary) filled with information on the various kinds of unicorns. As usual Murphy’s illustrations are gorgeous and add a fun dimension to the story.

I love this series and am kind of obsessed with it. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an old fashioned adventure-fantasy for the younger set.

Magic Under Glass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore (original cover)Nimira is a trouser girl. She left her home years ago seeking fame and maybe even fortune in Lorinar.

Instead Nim is treated like foreign trash and reduced to playing in seedy music halls lacking the respect and admiration reserved for artists back home in Tiansher.

That is until a sorcerer comes to Nim with an unusual proposal.

Hollin Parry is in possession of an automaton of singular craftsmanship. It plays the piano and some people say it might be haunted, so real does it look. Mr. Parry doesn’t believe any of that, but he would like a singer to accompany the automaton’s playing. In fact, he wants Nimira to accompany it.

If Nimira can ignore the rumors about the automaton and the sorcerer’s past, Mr. Parry can offer her respectable work at the fine estate of Vestenveld, a steady income, and maybe even something more if Nim is willing.

But life at Vestenveld is not as it appears. A madwoman roams the halls and rooms are filled with remnants of a dark past. Then there’s the automaton.

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore (revised cover)He doesn’t frighten Nimira, far from it. But what if his lifelike movements aren’t just clockwork actions? What if the automaton really is haunted? Or worse? As Nim learns more about her new home and the automaton she will have to make dangerous choices to protect herself and save the one she loves in Magic Under Glass (2010) by Jaclyn Dolamore.

At 225 pages (hardcover) Magic Under Glass is a short book–especially for a fantasy (a genre where many books top out at more than 400 pages). Dolamore’s pacing is perfect to build tension and establish the complicated world of Lorinar, especially as seen through the eyes of a foreigner like Nim, right until the end of the story.

Like the Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle books, this one blends a lot of different elements into what is essentially a fantasy. Magic Under Glass offers commentary on racism, discrimination, class systems, ethics and more all while guiding Nimira through a story narrated, rather delightfully, in Nim’s witty voice. The novel also blends elements of gothic novels with traditional fantasy tropes (and politics) to create suspense and romance throughout.

The ending comes very quickly as the story builds to a high action scene that culminates rather abruptly. Even with the quick ending Magic Under Glass is really a perfect story. And, honestly, a perfect ending. The story’s closure is just open-ended enough for readers to imagine their own perfect outcome. A sequel may be in the works–Dolamore has certainly created a large enough world to accommodate many more stories–but this is one book that is wrapped up very nicely on its own without tying things up too tightly.

Possible Pairings: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Selling Hope by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Exclusive Bonus Content: Readers who followed the Liar cover controversy back in 2009 might remember that the same publisher was once again called for putting a white girl on the cover of Magic Under Glass in 2010. (More basic information about book cover design can be found in this post.) Nimira is a character of color. She has brown skin and her second class status among the paler people of Lorinar is a HUGE part of the story.

The original cover for the book (the top image in this review because it’s the cover I read the book with) has a girl with pale skin. Now, to be fair, I think this infraction is easier to swallow than Liar because the girl’s face is obscured and the lighting is dim so you can’t really say for sure what the girl actually looks like. On the other hand, that’s splitting hairs and there should be more minority characters shown prominently on book covers. This cover, while visually wonderful (props to the photographer Monica Stevenson, designer Danielle Delaney and Kristin Farrell who supplied the beautiful jewelery shown), is also really not indicative of the plot since it focuses on one tiny scene that relates very tangentially to the actual plot of the story. Interestingly this cover also might be showing Nim in her “trouser girl” costume which is a loaded thing in itself (and explained in the book so I won’t get into it here).

If response to the controversy raised by the cover/plot disconnect later editions of the book were released with a new cover featuring a model who much more obviously fits Nimira’s description. This cover also is more closely related to the plot of the story. See that key she’s holding? Really important part of the story. Seriously.

Personally, I like both covers. They capture different parts of the story very well. The contrast (and controversy) also provides an interesting counterpoint to the story and even comments further on some of the issues raised in the novel by Dolamore herself.