Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

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This was charming and the pick me up I needed. This year has been a continuous raging dumpster fire in every facet of life and it’s so nice to have a bit of escapism. I don’t typically pick up Victorian Fantasy, however, it has audio, it’s part of SPFBO, and my friend and very talented author, Quenby Olson, recommended it. I picked it up despite the description being the very thing that generally bounces right off of me.

Ms. Dora Ettings had half of her soul stolen by an evil Fae elf as a little girl and has since grown into a woman with deadened emotions. I don’t know why, exactly, but I imagined her as Vulcan-like in her detached examination of what she should be feeling vs what she was truly feeling. She describes herself as having “long-tailed” emotions, things like an impending sense of dread, or a general distaste for particular people. However, she’s nearly incapable of “in the moment” emotions, such as happiness, fear, and romantic love. She examines human behavior in a way that just charmed my pants off.

Her cousin is trying to find a suitable bachelor to marry, and since Dora is of an age with her, she’s expected to get married soon, too… if she would just stop being so strange. Trying to perform the social graces and etiquette that are required of high society Victorian women is no small feat for someone who doesn’t have emotional issues. Her cousin, Vanessa, went to quite some length to try and find a ‘cure’ for Dora… including making contact with a sorcerer who can do ‘impossible magic’. The sorcerer is looked down on by most people since he’s crude and doesn’t adhere to the expectations of someone in his station. They make a fun duo as they try and solve a mystery of why so many children are falling into an unnatural sleep and then dying.

There really isn’t a ton of plot to this book, and that’s totally fine by me. What’s there is engaging, but what kept me turning pages were the characters. This will be for people who enjoyed The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It’s just a bunch of great scenes between characters, growth, and development, unraveling of backstories with a nice light plot to tie it all together.

I think the banter was probably one of the best parts of the book, the dialogue was witty, fast-moving, and believable. The writing style itself was light and breezy and made for easy listening. I found the narrator to be a great choice with a nice tone for the story and lightly done voices. The pacing was extremely quick despite the lack of action sequences and things of that nature. It was a quick book, coming in around 250 pages it took me just a few short reading sessions to finish it. I could have been done in one go if I had the time.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Victorian Fantasy, and even those who don’t. If you want something to take your mind off things and leave you with the warm fuzzies, pick this one up!

Disclaimer: I am not rating books in SPFBO 6 that were not in my batch. I don’t want any confusion over official scores, I don’t want to step on toes, and I don’t want to either raise/dash the hopes of the authors. My opinions are my own and may or may not be similar to the OG judge 😀 To each their own and read on! 

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