Book Review: Half A Soul by Olivia Atwater

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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.

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This book was on my radar but I hadn’t actually planned to read it. But I kept seeing it everywhere and then two of my favorite reviewers and friends, Caitlin and Lia loved it, so I knew I had to give it a try. And what better time than during a very stressful international flight journey. It really felt like a perfect balm to my harried soul.

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The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the writing here is that it’s a breeze. I started reading the book once my flight took off and by the time I stopped for the first time, I was more than one third into it and I felt like I had just started. It’s very captivating and engaging right from the get go, and it keeps you hooked with very clever writing, banter, delightful characters and an underlying message that resonates. It’s a historical setting with modern sensibilities infused and makes for some perfect escapism. The pacing of the book is also pretty fast, which is probably why I was so quickly lost in it.

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The equally excellent part of this book are the characters. Dora may have had half of her soul stolen which prevents her from feeling or expressing most kinds of emotions, but it also makes her a very straightforward person. She is good and compassionate and has a keen sense of justice, which more than makes up for her inability to express.

She finds her perfect match in the Lord Sorcier of England, Elias who starts off as a grumpy man who has no interest in being polite or kind. But as his interactions with Dora turn from banter to more honest, we realize that he has been through so much in life and is angry all the time because he can’t fathom the cruelty of humans all around him. This becomes a common point that brings the both of them closer because while both are dismayed at the atrocities they witness and despair that they can’t eradicate all evil, they still decide and strive to do as much as they can to help those who can’t help themselves and have been neglected or disdained by polite society.

It was also nice to see a whole cast of interesting characters. Dora’s cousin Vanessa is a sweet young girl who is privileged and has the usual indifference which comes with her upbringing, but she is also staunchly loyal to Dora and never lets her down. I loved how willing to try and change she was, and their sibling bond was very beautiful to read about. Albert is a physician who fought in the war alongside Elias so they both have a very strong brotherhood and though it can be tested sometimes, they also share similar loyalty towards each other built upon both shared understanding of the cruelty of war, as well as the cruelty of human beings. I also thought Dora and Albert’s few interactions were a lot of fun and I adore him for first realizing the potential in their couple. We also have other surprising additions to the cast who may only appear in a few scenes but impressed me with their words and actions.

Yes, this book has villains who our main characters have to confront, but I think the main villain in this story is the indifference of human beings towards the evil that happens in our society. The overall tone of the book maybe fun and charming but I loved how deftly the author manages to convey the themes about showing compassion, helping those who are in need, not overlooking the atrocities that happen around us, and raising our voice when needed so that we can all make our share of insignificant contribution towards a better society.

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I can’t believe that I’ve fallen in love with yet another new series and now have to read the next ones in it, as if I already don’t have an overflowing tbr. But I don’t regret it at all because this book gave me joy and most importantly, a couple I really really adored. I would highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy historical romances, but I feel that it’ll charm anyone, so you should all give it a try whatever your genre preferences maybe.

5 star

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