Review: Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Series: Regency Faerie Tales #1
Publisher: Orbit
Published: June 2022
Pages: 304


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 – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.

My Thoughts…

Half a Soul was the comfort read I didn’t know I needed. Reading this book was absolutely delightful and I enjoyed every moment of it, finding myself wanting to pick it up multiple times during the day and reading well into the night. And as the last page turned, that warm and fuzzy feeling lingered for quite a while.

The Regency atmosphere of London ball season suited this very well, and I loved seeing it through the eyes of our main character, Dora. Following a meeting with a faerie lord as a child, Dora lost half her soul and with it the ability to experience feelings. I found Dora to be really endearing as a character, and I loved that she tried to adapt to various situations by emulating other people’s reactions and feelings while slowly realising that maybe not all her feelings were compromised. I also really enjoyed her arc, and especially her move from a painful, excluding “otherness” to a more wholesome and peaceful uniqueness and self-acceptance, surrounding herself with people who love, care for and respect her.

This is a Regency faerie tale romance, and so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the romance part fairly early on in this post. I LOVED it. Elias and Dora gave me definite Pride and Prejudice vibes, especially in the beginning, and their banter was always witty and absolutely spot on. The build-up in their relationship was beautifully set up, and there were a couple of scenes that had me literally squealing in joy. I also really enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters and some of the side characters, and the fierceness of their love for one another as friends/family members even while calling each other out on problematic behaviour.

One element of this book I particularly enjoyed was the mystery surrounding the inexplicable sleeping plague hitting children in various London workhouses. Although the solution to this was, in the end, maybe a tad too simplistic, I really enjoyed how this was used as a way to introduce some (sadly) still current themes. Characters shared some deep reflections on socio-economic inequality and privilege which I really appreciated.

“There is such a thing as evil in this world,” Elias told her quietly. “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.”

Quote taken from the e-arc version, might be different in the final version.

The class critique was maybe used a little conveniently at times, and certainly lacked some depth upon closer scrutiny, but it worked well in the context of a feel-good romance fantasy novel. The same goes for the more satirical/farcical episodes in the latter part of the book: I had a nice giggle out of them (which I greatly needed), but don’t go in expecting a treatise on equality and virtue.

Similarly, most of the characters lack depth and it is entirely possible that several plot points would not really hold up on a focused re-read, but I had such a great time with this book that this time I’m going to rate it (almost) entirely based on the way it made me feel rather than on a logical, rational analysis.

Highly recommended to anyone looking for an easy, fluffy, romantic read – especially if you ever thought you’d like Bridgerton to have magic!

Rating: 4.5/5

Four butterflies to indicate rating.

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