"You humans always miss the most important details," he said. It's not your fault of course.
Where to begin.. about this lovely story.
'Half a Soul' is book one in the 'Regency Faerie Tale' series by Olivia Atwater, a historical fantasy about a young woman who has been cursed with the loss of intense feelings like fear, embarrassment, and happiness. Along with that, she's also lost the ability in most cases to read the room, so to speak. Her actions are rarely based on societal expectations, though she can manage to behave in what is considered an appropriate manner much of the time.. it's through practice and memorized responses. Not instinct.
"Indeed, you should address me as Your Lordship or Lord Hollowvale, for I am the marquess of that realm. You can tell that I am important, for I am wearing many expensive jackets."
While the loss of some feelings like great joy and excitement.. would certainly be kind of sad having experienced them, her reactions are just rather muted. And arguably, lacking any real fear of speaking her mind, makes the main character.. Dora, much stronger than many. In fact, she's logical and wickedly clever. A force to be reckoned with at times.
Those who know me well would likely realize quite quickly that I love this character, as well as exactly why. As a woman who isn't particularly emotional in most scenarios, though I am quite adept at reading the room, I rarely let it influence my own behaviors. I know when it's prudent of course.. professionally for example.. but occasionally I still don't care enough to offer false niceties. I say what I mean.
"If we are being politely dishonest with one another, then you may assure the Lord Sorcier that I am charmed to meet him too."
So, to come across a character like Dora, was incredibly refreshing. I find her extremely likeable and funny. Her humor is usually biting and sometimes a bit dark. She can stand up for herself and others, but doesn't have to do so in some contrived way to show us she's strong. She simply, doesn't really mind making the hard choices.. because for her, they mostly come easily.
Along the way, of course, she meets the Lord Sorcier of England, Lord Elias Wilder. A handsome young man who is quite likely her equal, both in oddness and directness, yet without her affliction. He's a magician who.. and I love the Wonderland reference.. is said to "regularly perform three impossible things before breakfast."
"Pleasant-mannered people are simply the worst sort of people. Decent people become properly angry when presented with miserable injustice, but pleasant-mannered people never do."
There are plenty of other great characters too, Albert.. Elias' friend, Vanessa.. Dora's incredibly loyal.. if somewhat pampered cousin, and the mysterious Lord Hollowvale.. who is quite the alluring fiend.
Atwater does a beautiful job of creating a pair of sibling worlds, where the parallels are visible, but the differences extreme. Sometimes brutal. And often strange, but in a fantastic way.
Admittedly, I have always wanted to read a good historical fiction novel. I know many who love the genre and I hate missing out on something, but in my case.. the overdone use of the period's language always loses me. I just can't handle all the proper b.s. I understand that it was often how things were in certain social circles, but it's not for me. The entire population of those countries didn't speak in the same tones. There have always been variances between the people, either by class or by region.. or something else.
"There is such a thing as evil in this world..."
"It does not help to look away from it. It does not even help, necessarily, to look at it..."
"But sometimes, when you cannot force the world to come to its senses, you must settle only for wiping away some of the small evils in front of you."
Some of the characters here speak in the formal tongue of Regency England, but others don't. There's plenty of varied British dialect to go around. Honestly, my favorite moments of dialogue were usually between Dora and Elias. They held a sense of familiar, relatable banter that I see amongst my own social circles and I loved them.
If you're looking for a traditional Austen title here, this isn't it. 'Half a Soul' is billed as 'Pride and Prejudice' meets 'Howl's Moving Castle'.. and to a degree, I can see that. But to assume that's all it is would be doing it a tremendous disservice.
Do yourself a favor, add 'Half a Soul' to your list of must read books. Olivia Atwater is a sleeping giant of fantasy fiction.