Book Review: Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater


half_a_soulEver since a faerie cursed her, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear, embarrassment, or even happiness—a condition which makes her sadly prone to accidental scandal. Dora’s only goal for the London Season this year is to stay quiet and avoid upsetting her cousin’s chances at a husband… but when the Lord Sorcier of England learns of her condition, she finds herself drawn ever more deeply into the tumultuous concerns of magicians and faeries.

Lord Elias Wilder is handsome, strange, and utterly uncouth—but gossip says that he regularly performs three impossible things before breakfast, and he is willing to help Dora restore her missing half. If Dora’s reputation can survive both her ongoing 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.

Pride and Prejudice meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enthralling historical fantasy romance, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mama. Pick up Half a Soul, and be stolen away into debut author Olivia Atwater’s charming, magical version of Regency England!



Oh, this was such a delightful read and I’m so glad I happened across one of my friends discussing it on twitter or else it would have remained off of my radar. Yay for book twitter, in this instance. 🙂

This is exactly what it sounds like – a Regency-ish Romance with magic and the fantastic.  Or maybe it’s a fantasy book in the guise of a Regency Romance–the two are given equal weight to the story here. Dora is a character with a curse on her–a fae lord came and stole half of her soul when she was a child due to an arrangement her mother had made before she was ever born. As a consequence Dora tends to feel things in a muted way. She doesn’t experience great happiness or great sadness or other feelings. Sometimes there might be a faraway pang that causes her to examine what she might be feeling but these are more curiosities than anything else. Because of her lack of feelings she also isn’t very tactful and often doesn’t follow the rules of society very well. This has labeled her as ‘strange’ by her family and if it weren’t for her cousin having her Season in London, Dora may have been relegated to a life hidden in the country forever. I love Dora’s character. She knows that people consider her strange but she just goes with it and does what she feels is right. Also, for someone with not many feelings she’s wonderfully empathetic – this grows as the story progresses.

As for other characters, there are a great many side characters and I think they were all written pretty well. The villains feel a bit mustache-twirly (there are more than one) but I think the author does a good job of showing their motivations for being self-serving and, in some cases, disgusting evil beings. I think they only feel that way because they feel so very bad that you can’t really imagine much good in them. But there are also friends to our protagonists! Dora’s cousin has been her one and only ally for years and she’s an interesting character–for a while we don’t know quite what to think of her. I think when Dora is exposed to the world, other people and their views, it highlights some things about her cousin’s personality. We also see meet a lot of new people in London and Dora’s social circle is suddenly widened. There are more good than bad people and it’s one of those things that makes you optimistic.

Optimism. Let’s talk about this because overall this is an optimistic story but it highlights some of humanities terrible deeds. There is an entire sub-plot about work houses and the treatment of the poor that is incredibly hard to read about. Elias, the Lord Sorcier, is a character who is filled with anger and despair because he came from the poor and suddenly, through his magic, found himself in the upper echelons of society. He sees the waste of the rich every day and he hates it. Unlike others, he’s not able to just sweep the poor and less fortunate under the rug or bury his head in the sand and pretend like they don’t exist. And so he’s angry and sour all the time–he does and says what he wants without caring what society’s manners dictate he should do. Because of this he has a terrible reputation as being rude and difficult. And when we first meet him he is quite rude and difficult. It’s once you get to know him and why he is so angry all the time that you understand. He sees the hypocrisy in society and he sees that people could be doing much more if they chose to but they just…don’t. He see’s the atrocities that others refuse to face. The truth is that Elias has so many feelings and so much passion… And I suppose it’s good he has an excess since he seems to be a perfect balance for Dora. I really enjoyed watching their relationship develop and seeing how they began to form a partnership.

This also features the fae being very fae, which is always a weakness of mine. I love it when they’re cold and unfeeling and not at all human. Something about that just feels right to me. But despite the fae and Dora’s condition there are plenty of feelings to be had in this book, of all sorts, and that’s what I love! The plot and subplots are quite good here as well, there’s a bit of a mystery and some other side things happening. Honestly there’s quite a bit going on in this book for a story that is somewhat focused on romance–the author did a great job of tying so many elements together here. If you like fantasy romance I definitely recommend checking this one out. 5/5 stars.

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

  1. Tammy says:

    I’ve never heard of this but it sounds like something I’d love😁 I love the idea of a character with only half a soul, and adding in fae and romance to the story sounds like fun!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I had never heard of this one either but one of my friends mentioned it on twitter so I had to pick it up because we have similar tastes. I’m glad I did because it was a gem of a story. 🙂

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    I feel some delightful Georgette Heyer vibes here, which take me back to the times when I read – and enjoyed – her Regency stories. This one also has magic so… it sounds like a good combination! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Susy's Cozy World says:

    I never heard of this one before, but as soon as I read the synopsis I knew that this book was TBR material, and your review confirmed it! It sounds good, and optimistic is always a good thing (I love grim dark but… I love optimism and good feeling all around too!) and what you wrote about the two MC made me want to meet them ASAP!

  4. @lynnsbooks says:

    Definitely adding this to my shelves. If ‘Pride and Prejudice meets Howl’s Moving Castle’ didn’t already win me over I just love the fact that this seems to tackle some social issues too.
    Lynn 😀

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