Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
the fifth doll (Charlie N. Holmberg)
Title: the fifth doll
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Publisher: 47North (47North is the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror imprint of Amazon Publishing, the full-service publishing arm of Amazon)
Publication Date: July 25, 2017 (paperback/e-book)
So as usual the cover drew me in:
And the premise is quite fun. A girl accidentally finds a room in a neighbor’s house that contains matryoshka (nesting) dolls. The catch is that there is one painted to look like every villager. Why is there a doll painted with her face? This glimpse leads her to be drawn into the mystery of her neighbor Slava’s world. He wants her to be the next caretaker of the dolls and their magic. The catch is that for every one of her dolls that she opens, serious consequences occur that expose her to the truth she doesn’t know how to handle.
I liked the ideas in this book but unfortunately the writing does not do them justice. The main character, Matrona, is 26 but acts like a very immature twelve year old. She is more concerned with her worry over not being loved by her betrothed and going through with her arranged marriage then the problems of the village being controlled by Slava. At the same time, she has a crush on another neighbor from a less prosperous family and waffles about that too. Her naivete grew tiresome.
All of the characters seemed flat, Matrona included. I understand magic is involved but everyone seemed like inhuman cardboard cutouts. I would have liked full fleshed out people.
While the first two consequences of Matrona’s dolls were especially interesting, the plot was confusing overall. There were periods of intense information dropping, especially in the beginning, and then other parts where nothing happened. There are entire sections with Matrona wandering around the village waffling over her love life. Her love interest falls in love with her in just a week. Part of the action was delayed because there were 3 day gaps between opening the next doll. The villain didn’t really do anything other than intimidate Matrona and disappears for entire sections of the book so that Matrona can do something to further the plot.
Then Matrona has a vision in Chapter 16 / 73% in and the book had a sharp decline that lasted through the end. The explanations for the mystery of the dolls and Matrona’s decisions and methods in fighting back were so lackluster. I was so close to the end at that point that I finished so I could see how the author chose to resolve the issues. Again interesting concepts but poor execution.
I seem to be in the minority so far with this opinion so take it with a grain of sea salt. If ye chose to read it, I hope ye like it far better than I. I just know I won’t be readin’ another book by this author.
So lastly . . .
Thank you 47North!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
The bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series transports readers to a darkly whimsical new world where strange magic threatens a quiet village that only a desperate woman can save.
Matrona lives in an isolated village, where her life is centered on pleasing her parents. She’s diligent in her chores and has agreed to marry a man of their choosing. But a visit to Slava, the local tradesman, threatens to upend her entire life.
Entering his empty house, Matrona discovers a strange collection of painted nesting dolls—one for every villager. Fascinated, she can’t resist the urge to open the doll with her father’s face. But when her father begins acting strangely, she realizes Slava’s dolls are much more than they seem.
When he learns what she’s done, Slava seizes the opportunity to give Matrona stewardship over the dolls—whether she wants it or not. Forced to open one of her own dolls every three days, she falls deeper into the grim power of Slava’s creations. But nothing can prepare her for the profound secret hiding inside the fifth doll.
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