Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater – Book Details
TITLE – Half a Soul
SERIES – Regency Faerie Tales, book #1
AUTHOR – Olivia Atwater
YEAR PUBLISHED – 2020
PAGE COUNT – 304
MY RATING – 4.5 of 5
RATED ON GOODREADS – 4.14 of 5
About to start Half a Soul…
“Do you not know what happens to impolite young children who wander in the woods, firstborn child of Georgina Ettings?”
I don’t really know much about this book, except I heard it’s a cozy and wholesome Regency romance with a dash of magic. And after finishing Mexican Gothic a couple of hours ago, cozy and wholesome is exactly what I need.
I took just a peek at the blurb. Apparently, we are following Dora, who only has half a soul and therefore has trouble telling what’s appropriate and how other people feel about her casual childishly honest remarks. And then I think she meets this wizard who’s supposed to help her get her soul back, but he’s a real ass?
I don’t know if I got that right, but I wanna just slowly discover the story as I’m reading it, and this sounded sweet and magical and just – perfect. But here’s a more official description as well, in case that’s what you prefer.
What Is This Book About
“Oh dear, Dora thought to herself distantly. But Vanessa is so sweet and obedient. How could she stab a marquess with her embroidery scissors?”
Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater is a captivating regency fantasy romance centered around the enchanting journey of Miss Theodora Ettings. As a child, Dora had a fateful encounter with a faerie that altered her, rendering her incapable of experiencing emotions as others do. Consequently, her introduction to society falls short of hopes. However, undeterred, she becomes resolute in ensuring her beloved cousin Vanessa’s grand debut in the glamorous world of London.
In the midst of this eventful season, Dora’s path serendipitously crosses with the enigmatic King’s Magician, Elias Wilder. Their meeting ignites an unexpected chemistry, and playful banter sparks between them, drawing them irresistibly closer to each other.
Elias might even be able to help Dora reverse the curse. But the journey to get her soul whole again could prove to be even more dangerous than anyone expected.
My Thoughts As I’m Reading Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater
10% into the book:
Dora glanced towards her cousin, considering the way that her lip trembled and her hands clutched together. Quietly, she tried to mirror the gestures. Her aunt had begged her to act normal at this party, after all.
This series is called Regency Faerie Tales and from the prologue the name seems suitable. There’s a historical setting. A forest in which children like to wander around. A magical debt collector there to pick up a certain firstborn promised to him a long time ago. There’s stabbing a faerie in the leg with a pair of scissors.
What more can you ask for from a fairytale?
Moving fast forward, we next meet Dora as a young lady of twenty-something, and you just got to love her. Clearly, the unfortunate encounter when she was a child left consequences, but I’m still trying to grasp their full extent.
So far, she mostly just seems socially awkward, unable to always tell what’s appropriate and what’s not. Her emotions also seem to be tempered down a lot, which is why her changed state doesn’t really bother Dora much.
What does bother her is that her condition might hold back her beloved cousin Vanessa. She doesn’t want her predicament to affect Vanessa’s social standing, including who she can marry.
Vanessa on her end loves Dora more than anyone and her most important requirement for a husband is that he needs to accept Dora and possibly even let her live with them.
Vanessa is worried about Dora, but mostly in the sense that people may try to fit Dora into molds they think she should fit into and that way subdue her nature which is awkward but funny and sweet.
And we just got the first glimpse at Elias Wilder, Lord Sorcier. He’s not really nice, isn’t he? I can’t wait to see how that one’s going to turn around.
40% into the book:
If we are being politely dishonest with one another, then you may assure the Lord Sorcier that I am charmed to meet him too.
I am enjoying very much the historical aspect of this book. It reminded me of the time when Regency books were all I wanted to read. It didn’t last long, but it were great couple of months, and Half a Soul brought back all the cozy, wonderful vibes.
The magic is too vague to grasp at this point and I have a suspicion it’s going to stay that way till the end. But that’s cool; the book feels more like a Regency romance than a fantasy anyway.
Speaking of romance, I’m not sure what to make of Lord Sorcier. He has become so much kinder than the man we first met, it almost doesn’t seem believable. While I welcome the change, I wish the transition had been done a bit smoother.
But I do enjoy the relationship between him and Dora, which is slowly but steadily developing. They seem like a perfect match for each other. He has finally found someone who isn’t horrified by his surface-level preposterous demeanor.
And for Dora, it’s a relief that she doesn’t have to worry about whether her reactions are socially acceptable when she’s around him. He clearly doesn’t care about such things, so for the first time in forever, she can just say whatever’s on her mind.
“I would like the record to state that I am doing this only under great duress,” he told them both. “You may note it on my dance card later, if you like,” Dora told him.
Aunts meddling and trying to marry everyone make things even more interesting. However, parts of how certain people treat Dora are clear emotional abuse. I didn’t expect that from such a light book, but it actually works well, it gives depth to the story.
It also seems there’s going to be another plot thread going on. There’s some mysterious disease spreading through London. We don’t know much about it, but its cause may or may not be magical. In any case, it is another potential bonding point for Dora and Elias, so…
So far, the book has exceeded my expectations in many ways. It is sweet and wholesome, easy to sink into. And it is super fast to read; I’m practically flying through it.
70% into the book:
“It may be true that you only have half a soul, Dora,” he whispered, with a surprising abundance of empathy in his voice. “But that does not make you half a person.”
If I had to pick one thing that maybe could be better about this book, it would be that Dora’s condition didn’t always feel quite convincing to me.
Because she doesn’t have half of her soul, I expected Dora to be way more awkward and to cause some real trouble. But for someone who struggles to understand her own emotions, she seems to be catching up on others’ exceptionally well.
I’m not sure I’m buying it. But I can see how difficult it would be to be able to understand emotions, yet to never truly experience them.
What I loved was that we got even deeper look into the reasons behind Elias’ grumpiness. Finally I feel like I understand his character a bit better.
“Elias may have an awful temper, it is true. But he is angry about all the right things.”
One of the most important topics this book explores is the importance of communicating clearly and saying what needs to be said. Even if what you have to say is not in line with social norms.
There were actually quite a few heavier topics mentioned in this book. They weren’t super deeply explored, it’s still a light book. But I liked that they were there, they gave the whole thing some much needed weight.
“I am sure that every evil man believes himself to be charitable,” she told him. “In that respect, at least, you are a true Englishman.”
What a great ending! This was truly adorable. Well written. Heart melting. So glad I read it, I loved it.
I finishes reading Half a Soul with a smile that almost hurt my cheeks! It was one of the few books that made me giddily happy this year.
Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater – My Final Review
“There is such a thing as evil in this world […] It does not help to look away from it. It does not even help necessarily to look at it. […] But sometimes, when you cannot force the world to come to its senses, you must settle only for wiping away some of the small evils in front of you.”
I think I already said pretty much all I had to say about this book. It was beautiful and wonderful and sweet. Charming and fun. It’s a quick read that gives all the light, fuzzy, happy vibes and can work as a pick me up read.
I gave Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater 4.5 stars. At first I rounded it down to 4, but the more I’m thinking about it, the more I feel it deserves 5 stars. This book is probably going to be among my top 10 favorite books I read in 2023. It has my full recommendations.
If the genre and description sound at all like something you might enjoy, give it a shot. Hope you’ll love it as much as I did!