Review: Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

Timy reviews Half a Soul, the first book in Olivia Atwater‘s Fantasy Romance series, Regency Faerie Tales.

About the Book
Series:Regency Faerie Tales #1
Genre:Fantasy, Romance
Publisher:Orbit
Date of Publishing:April 5, 2022
Trigger Warnings:death, abuse
Page count:304
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
  • Free Your Mind
  • Are You Gonna Be My Girl
  • I’m Still Here
  • Shut Up and Dance
  • Have a Little Faith
  • Misfits
  • Vészhelyzet (Emergency)
  • I’ll Be There
  • Cotton Eye Joe
Book Blurb
Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.

Review

I’ve been eyeing Half a Soul for a good 2 or 3 years now, but the timing somehow never was right. I was still in my no-romance state, and then it got picked up by Orbit, and it was so hyped by everyone I know that I was just wary. I usually don’t gel well with hyped books so I stay away from them unless there is something that intrigues me. When Atwater’s other book, Small Miracles fell in my batch for SPFBO 8, that gave me a great opportunity to find out about her writing. I think we can agree that it went pretty well. And yet, it still took me a year to finally pick up Half a Soul. I opted for the audiobook, because that’s all I could fit into my schedule and I really was itching for something cozy and light. In hindsight, I’m not sure the audiobook was the right choice as I wasn’t all that into the narrator, but I’m still kicking myself for not picking Half a Soul up earlier.

Set in the Regency era, Half a Soul introduces us to London’s high society with its balls, dinner parties and mothers’ scheming. Our MC, Dora Ettings stands out like a sore thumb. She is so unlike them, that they can hardly figure out what to do with her. She speaks her mind, she doesn’t play games, and even though her feelings are muted she still has more sense and humanity than a lot of other people in the higher circles. And she is someone I’d like to hang out with, if I had the choice.

The closest person to Dora is her cusin, Vanessa. She not only saved her life as a child, but she is also the only one in their family who actually cares about her. Her aunt only sees her as a cursed problem, and a puppet to help her catch a husband for Vanessa, and the rest of the world mostly pities her or is annoyed by her. So when Vanessa decides to go to London for the Season, Dora does what she is asked of her. Little does she know that Vanessa’s mind is not only husbands, but she also wants to cure Dora. And for this, she just needs to be sure she gets an invite to a party where the Lord Sorcier might appear. With her beauty and family background, this shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. It helps, that her mother moves every rock to make sure she finds a suitably wealthy and noble husband (which is more important than something as trivial as love or happyness). And if she can get rid of Dora in the process, then all the better.

Eli Wilde has no patience for the high society, their parties, nor their egos. But a chance meeting with Dora makes him intrigued and decides socialising with the elite might be worth the trouble. As the newly appointed Lord Sorcier and hero of England, there are not many doors that won’t open for him – no matter how much the elite might look down on him for his apparent lack of nobility. Dora is not like anyone else she ever met – she is blunt, she seems to care little about societal rules, and doesn’t react in situation as might one expect a lady to do. He agrees to help her, but he has other issues on his hands. Orphan children keep falling asleep to never awake again. And he wants to know why.

I also wanted to know why, and so I took every opportunity I could to pick up the audiobook. I enjoyed reading about The Lord Sorcier and Dora’s interactions, and I went through all kinds of emotions as the story progressed. I laughed, I sat on the edge of my seat, I was angry, I was intrigued. And I kept wishing Half a Soul was a much longer book. Partly because I wanted to dig deeper into the world, and sometimes I wanted the pace to slow down so I could immerse myself in it all. And to get to know all the characters a little bit more.

Half a Soul is a great mix of romance, mystery and fantasy. Neither gets the upper hand, but they also don’t cancel each other out. Atwater knows exactly what she is doing, and waves the plotlines together in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages. That, and the two main characters that makes this book a joy. They have flaws, they are far from perfect, they stand out from society but this is also what makes them endearing and relatable. I definitely won’t wait years to pick up the next book.

Our Judgement
They Shall Be Remembered - 4.5 Crowns

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