This is one of those books you would really want to have on your bookshelf, in print form, rather than just experience on the e-reader. With a gorgeous, glowing red cover, and red print used for page headers and illustrated footer, it’s beautiful to look at. I’ve not come across a regular paperback that splurges on using a coloured print before, so it is really worth commenting on, and, for me, reflects some of the quality of the book itself.
Avery Hood is found in the woods, by the remains of her murdered parents, covered in blood and with no memory of what happened to them. With the support of her previously somewhat estranged grandmother, Avery starts to try to pull her life back together, but events don’t make that easy. Used to living close to nature, Avery struggles to assimilate to life with her grandmother, and fights to keep her family home in the woods. Then a new boy, Ben, makes her feel things she has not experienced before, but she wonders if she can actually trust him, with the secrets he holds. And then there’s the mystery of her parents’ murder – is Ben involved, or is there some motive that Avery has not yet grasped.
In case you haven’t guessed by the title and the protagonist’s name, this is a riff off the Red Riding Hood fairytale, just one of many books, films and television programs currently riding the fairytale retelling wave, but Low Red Moon does it in a way that really just uses the bare bones of the tale as inspiration for the narrative. And while I did pick the resolution to the crime element of the story, that did little to detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Recommended, but do try to get a copy of the paperback – it’s lovely!
ISBN: 978 1 4088 0212 0
This is an impressive debut from first-time novelist Jaclyn Dolamore, but it certainly had a journey and a half on publication. After the cover debacle that raged on the Internet over Justine Larbalestier’s novel Liar, it was quite unbelievable to most that publisher Bloomsbury could turn around and make the exact same mistake AGAIN. The international version of the book originally showed a very light-skinned model on the cover, despite it being made very clear in the book that the protagonist Nimira is “dark and foreign” (p. 5). Furore erupted once again, and once again Bloomsbury pulled the cover, replacing it with a more appropriate model. Clever marketing or complete ignorance, it’s difficult to say, but it did get this book a significant amount of exposure it may not otherwise have garnered as a debut book. It’s worth noting that the Australian cover has avoided the issue entirely (just as Larbalestier’s did) by being a romantic-style artwork instead of using a live model.
Nimira is a “trouser-girl”, an exotically foreign dancer and singer down on her luck. Her life is changed when the upper-class sorcerer Hollin Parry employs her to sing with the automaton he has purchased. Nimira suddenly finds herself in a new lifestyle, with new prospects, but all is not well in Hollin’s house, and certainly not everything is what it seems with the automaton. Nimira soon discovers the secret of the automaton, which throws her newfound happiness into disarry – can Nimira solve the strange mysteries that plague the Parry household and still stay true to herself?
I found this book very easy to read – Dolamore’s writing is lush and elegant, without being overly flowery. The world she has created is many-faceted and full of surprises; I liked that it wasn’t excessively complicated and was simply presented. However, I’m not sold on this as a Young Adult novel (which is how it has been marketed) – Nimira is living a grown-up life and acts as an adult, including falling in love with men older than she who are CLEARLY adult. There’s nothing inappropriate in content – in fact it’s very sweet – but it just doesn’t hit my YA buttons.
Magic Under Glass is not presented as a series, but the ending is sufficiently open enough that more books are sure to follow. I shall look forward to them.