Half a Soul, Regency Fairy Tales: Book One

Book Reviews / Monday, June 27th, 2022

By: Olivia Atwater
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing; but I have never been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.” Jane Austen

Half a Soul, by Olivia Atwater, is a truly delightful and unique fantasy. Her characters were beautifully crafted. The main protagonist, Dora, had half her soul stolen by a faerie, from a bargain her mother made. The half that was stolen left her with little feeling, or more precisely, she didn’t feel as others did. Dora could not really feel happiness, offense, shame, or fear, so she often speaks her mind. Her cousin Vanessa is exceedingly protective of her and they are like sisters. As Vanessa is to enter society in Regency England, Dora accompanies her, much to her Auntie Frances’ dismay. Upon their arrival in London, Dora meets Elias Wilder, Lord Sorcier, who is an exceedingly rude man. Now let the fun commence. Dora matches wit for wit for Elias, something he has never encountered before in a woman. He is a sorcerer, and Elias is the reason Vanessa wanted Dora to go to London, in hopes that he can cure her and make her soul whole again. Their banter is wonderful and funny, as Dora is completely free to speak her mind to whatever insults he covertly tries to say. He abhors society rules and parties, but grudgingly attends for his best friend, Albert Lowe, a kind physician. The chemistry between Dora and Elias just leaps off the pages, and the reader just can’t help but fall in love with the two of them. Elias is full of surprises that he will never admit too. What is wonderful about Dora is that even though she has half a soul, she can feel more than she realizes, and has more compassion than those in high society. In Dora, Ms. Atwater has written a simply a brilliant character. For even though she thought she could not feel, in truth, she didn’t need the other half to truly realize what is important. I absolutely loved this book. It was such a beautifully refreshing change to many of the “sword and sorcery” fantasies I read.

Half a Soul is a beautifully written novel with poetic prose. The banter between the characters is funny and sweet. I loved that Dora could not “feel” certain emotions. This let her say what was on her mind and the reaction of high society was priceless. Of course, Auntie Frances is appalled and fears that Dora will ruin Vanessa’s chance at marriage because of her behavior. Her relationship with Vanessa is very special, and we can feel that as well. Vanessa never treats her as less of a person, but Vanessa is very much a high society woman. She doesn’t understand what Dora does at times, and Dora realizes that Vanessa can perhaps use a lesson in empathy. It was an amazing moment when that Ms. Atwater was able to convey how disappointed Dora was in Vanessa when she showed shock that Dora was helping the poor in workhouses. It was not something ladies did, and Vanessa did not see the suffering or seem to care. A sleeping sickness is affecting children and Elias is trying to discover the cause. Dora accompanies Albert to the workhouses to assist him with patients, and Elias takes the children to an orphanage to be cared for to learn what is happening. There is so much that goes on between Dora and Elias. He is committed to helping her, but the children may be running out of time. For someone with half a soul, Dora says her condition is not as important as the children, once again illustrating her compassion and kindness.  That is the only surprise about Elias I will divulge.

The pacing was spot on. I was drawn in from the first page. I was invested in the characters and I simply loved Dora and Elias. The other characters complemented them perfectly. Auntie Frances was not very kind to Dora, but she did take care of her as her parents passed away. She was the opposite of Dora, being more concerned with appearances than what lies underneath. Albert was Elias’ best friend and understood his frustration with high society. Vanessa did have compassion, she was not a bad person, just naïve and sheltered. She was the single person, until Elias, that wanted to help her and always treated her as if nothing was wrong. As it turns out, even with half a soul, Dora actually had more soul than many others.

Overall Thoughts

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater is a captivating and enchanting fairy tale fantasy. I absolutely loved this book. The characters were so well-fleshed out, that they leaped off the page. Dora and Elias were superb. Their banter and wit were funny and charming, and I found myself laughing at how Dora would best him with her comebacks. Their chemistry was palpable and how they played off each other was so enjoyable. The other characters, Vanessa, Albert, Auntie Frances, and the others in Regency London complemented Dora and Elias so well. Ms. Atwater wrote such an exceptional character in Dora. She showed that even with half a soul, the part taken where she could not really feel anything, Dora had more empathy and compassion than many of those around her. She was able to see pain and suffering, and put the needs of others before her own; her own need to find the other half of her soul to be whole again. I think that perhaps Ms. Atwater was showing us is that you don’t need a whole soul to know love, compassion, and understanding. This is truly an amazing book and I highly recommend it to all readers, not just lovers of fantasy. I think you will find it as enthralling as I did.

Summary (from NetGalley)

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—an unfortunate condition that leaves her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season—but when Elias Wilder, the strange, handsome, and utterly ill-mannered Lord Sorcier, discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into peculiar and dangerous faerie affairs.
If her reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all high society, then she and her family may yet reclaim their normal place in the world. But the longer Dora spends with Elias, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love even with only half a soul.

You can find out more about Olivia Atwater on her website at: https://oliviaatwater.com/
Purchase Half a Soul on Amazon

My thanks to Orbit Books for providing me with an ARC copy of the book.
My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eBook

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