Half A Soul (Regency Faerie Tales #1) by Olivia Atwater
Published by Orbit Books
Adult, Historical Fantasy, Romance
Release Date : June 28th 2022
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.
“I have known many human beings with a full soul to their name who do not have half so much compassion or practicality as you.”
ARC provided by the publisher Orbit Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Half A Soul is the perfect book that mixes elements of fantasy and regency romance fuelled with witty banter, a mysterious plot, and serves the sweetest version of grumpy x dead inside dynamic.
June is the month that kicks off the season for summer and the hottest season for reading. Books that I associate with summer is romance, but for me there needs to be a bit of fantasy. Orbit Books has graciously sent an ARC (Advance Readers Copy) of their newest series acquisition—a historical fae romance that was originally self-pub—Half A Soul by Olivia Atwater.
What made me pick up this book is the blurbs from some of my favorite authors and fellow bloggers. The pitch—”Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.“—promised a drama filled yet light hearted story. One of my favorite movies and book is Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones, even though the movie isn’t an accurate adaptation of the book I still loved it. Bridgerton is also the sensational historical romance that is swooning every viewer and lover of the book series. Seeing these two things combined into one book series, sign me up!
Before I dive into the review I would like to spotlight the beautiful cover for the trilogy designed by Matthew Burne. For returning readers that have read the self published book, the cover is the same as self published book for both the UK and US version republished by Orbit. Half of Soul will be released in June, followed by Ten Thousand Stitches in July, and Long Shadow in August. Join Olivia Atwater’s newsletter to receive a FREE short story titled “The Latch Key”, following Elias Wilder as a father and his daughter, click here.
Half A Soul is the first book of the Regency Faerie Tales series by Olivia Atwater. It is a fast paced historical fantasy romance set in England that follows a single perspective, Theodora Ettings. Theodora Ettings—Dora—is cursed by a faerie, since then Dora has no sense of emotion unable to feel fear, embarrassment, shame, or any other kind of extreme emotion. Because of this Dora is prone for accidental scandal in Regency England.
Dora’s dear cousin Vanessa, is the epitome of a well mannered young lady and is the gem of the family. This London season it is time for Dora’s aunt to find Vanessa a husband. Therefore, Dora needs to be on her best behaviour to help Vanessa and avoid her overbearing aunt’s ire. Then walks in England’s Lord Sorcier—Elias Wilder—a magician that is infamous for his bad attitude and sharp tongue. The magician is intrigued by Dora’s ‘sickness’ that has robbed her emotions. With the royal sorcier on the case, a strange plague spreading, conspiring mothers determined to marry their children, and everyone’s future on the line; Dora’s hands are full this London season.
“Every fish you throw back into the ocean is a triumph of the idea that human beings can be better. I do my best, every day, to throw at least one fish back into the ocean. I hope that you will join me.”
Half A Soul is pitched to be Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle, I would like to verify this quite an accurate pitch for the story. Let me explain. The story is set in London, England like any regency romance I’ve read this is a staple background for a historical romance. What gives the Bridgerton vibes is the historical setting of the world, the conspiring mother hens, and the rumour mill of regency London. I understand that any regency romance will have these elements but I am going to give you the twist that is the fae and magic aspect of the world which reminded me of the movie Howl’s Moving Castle.
In Half A Soul magic is an established part of the society but it isn’t something that is taboo nor frowned upon in the world which is similar to how magic is viewed in the movie. Magicians in the world of Half A Soul is viewed as an honourable occupation and integral part of the military. The magic system of the story leans towards the softer side. It is accessible for all readers and isn’t too complex to understand throughout reading the book.
“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.” His fingers brushed through her hair, and she shivered. “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.”
Atwater’s writing is accessible and charming from start to end. The book got me grinning from ear to ear the whole time I was reading. The beats of the story is done with intent that leads readers through a wondrous journey filled with mystery and wholesome interaction between the two main characters. The distinction between characters is reflected in Atwater’s writing to show from Dora’s perspectives how she views the world and people she interacts with. I love that Atwater’s writing is beautiful without it being complex or overly written, it is just simple and clear to the point.
The core of Half A Soul are the characters. Though the story isn’t fully character driven it is equally balanced with the plot. The main characters of this story are Dora and Elias. The chemistry between Dora and Elias is electrifying, soft, and sometimes hilarious. The banter between these two flows naturally throughout the story. They are both beautifully fleshed out and jumps out of the page.
Dora is a wonderful main character that has her fair share struggles with not being able to feel emotions as strongly as a normal human does. Yet Dora discovers that she can feel emotion and loved just the way she is. Dora’s character development is noticeable as she interacts with more people that listens to her and doesn’t shame her for being herself. With each encounter she becomes more confident, happier, and overall unapologetically Dora.
Elias is the leading man in the story, a prickly magician that has his own eccentricities when it comes to interacting with humans. He is the perfect counter part to Dora’s indifference and straightforwardness because he is practical, precise, and isn’t shy to speak his mind. Elias’ characterization is executed wonderfully and his wit really jumps out of the page. What I love about Elias is how he is unapologetically himself in every way and he gives a strong front to protect the people that matter to him. I had hoped for Elias to perform more magic so hopefully in the sequels we can see more magician Elias.
“He has asked me before how the world can be so heartless. It is this dastardly need to remain calm and composed and polite that has left us all feeling so alone.”
In a way from their Dora and Elias’ first encounter readers can see their spark, even though its faint there is potential for it to be a bright flame. The romance is very subtle and isn’t as aggressive as other romance books I read. This is what I love about Half A Soul is how the main characters slowly gravitate towards each other, growing, and coming to that satisfying moment of realization that they are in love.
There are other supporting characters such as Vanessa—Dora’s cousin, Albert—Elias’ best friend, the mother hens, and many others that added another layer to the story. These characters made short appearances but their personalities stood out, distinct, and memorable. They contributed a lot in giving support to both main characters for them to be together and loving them for who they are.
Final thoughts, Half A Soul is a comforting fantasy romance that is accessible in writing with fast paced plot, lovable characters, and a slow burn romance that is wholesome and sweet. It is the perfect book for readers that want to read something short and cute. Any reader that are looking for a romance that mixes the elements of fantasy into regency romance set in London would love this book in my opinion. It has everything from the fluttery feelings of romantic one liners, subtle touches, and the declarations of love during mortal peril. I highly recommend for anyone to pick up this series because its just such a serotonin boost.
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.