Olivia Atwater’s Half a Soul is a charming and comforting historical fantasy romance for anyone looking for a delightful summer read that has all the courtship affairs of Bridgerton with the social class commentary of Downton Abbey, plus sparkling magic and mischievous faeries. Atwater brilliantly balances romantic tropes, the darker underbelly of 1800’s London, and fantasy to create this entrancing story I simply could not put down.
“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.“
Dora fast became a favorite protagonist with her unusual personality thanks to missing half a soul. When she steps into high society London, she’s more than a little out of place with her inability to read typical social cues making her a relatable heroine for anyone who has ever felt awkward or out of place. She’s also whip smart and willing to talk frankly with her company which sets her apart as well. With her cousin determined to fix Dora’s condition, the pair set off to London where she meets Elias. Elias, known as Lord Sorcier through London, is reminiscent of Mr. Darcy and Anthony Bridgerton, but with a temper. He’s fiercely defensive of his beliefs and unwilling to easily bend to the expectations of society much like Dora. The fact he’s also a magician adds a dangerous element to his fascinating character.
Atwater does a wonderful job on her world-building within this tale, so much so I felt transported to this magic infused London in just a few pages. Of course there are fairies, why wouldn’t there be! Her explanations and twists felt effortless and unpredictable as I read, and I’ll admit I was unable to put this book down (did I see 2:30 AM at one point? Yes, I did.) Atwater’s elegant style of writing also lends itself to the Regency era novel, adding an element of charm to the world she created. She bridges the gap of Jane Austen’s style with modern day writing in a brilliant and easy to read way. With an enemies to lovers trope, dangerous fairies about, and social norms questioned at every turn, this is a must read for fantasy and historical fiction lovers.
Half a Soul is part of the the Regency Faerie Tales series and will be available in paperback everywhere June 28. Half a Soul was followed by two additional stories, Ten Thousand Stitches and Longshadow, which Orbit will also be publishing in trade paperback on July 19 and August 16, respectively.