By Jaclyn Dolamore
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2010
$16.99, ages 12 and up, 320 pages
Eighteen-year-old Nimira thinks she's found the safe future she's been waiting for when a handsome sorcerer rescues her from a seedy life as "trouser girl," but when she arrives at his estate, Nimira is swept into a sinister coverup and must call upon the spirits of the netherworld to help her save a fairy prince.
Desperate to leave behind her humiliating job as a chorus girl, Nimira accepts an offer by Hollin Parry to perform at his estate with a piano-playing automaton. Parry confides that past singers fled his estate after claiming the clockwork man was haunted, but he insists its movements are only lifelike, not real.
Parry, a wealthy widower still anguished by his wife's death, is drawn to the defiant Nimira and doesn't believe she'll be spooked like his past hires. Nimira, who has waited four years for a better life, having fled her country of Tiansher for Lorinar when she was 14 to seek her fortune, wants to believe Parry is right.
Seizing her chance to break free of the possessive owner of the Tassim dance troupe and make a better wage, Nimira leaves the city of New Sweeling with Parry in a coach for Vestenveld estate. Though the country estate looks cold and lonely upon their arrival and she's greeted brusquely by a meaty-armed servant woman, Nimira feels burdens lift as she's whisked into a world of privilege.
But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Nimira discovers dark forces at work at the estate and a disturbing sentiment to destroy the fairies living over a wall from Lorinar. Nimira is horrified when she discovers real fairies frozen under glass in Parry's late father's study and learns that the wind-up automaton she's to perform with is actually a lost fairy prince trapped by a spell.
While Nimira is alone with the automaton, the fairy prince reveals himself, moaning out to her and tapping piano keys that correspond with letters of words in a plea for help. He explains he is Erris, the ninth son in line to the fairy crown, and was imprisoned inside the clockworks 30 years ago by his enemies during the last Fairy War.
Erris explains that he has been waiting for his human friend Garvin Pelerine, Lorinar's late ambassador of magic, to free him from the clockworks and is shaken when Nimiria tells him that Garvin has died, reportedly at the hand of fairy bandits.
The fairy prince doesn't believe fairies were to blame and suspects foul play by Garvin's human rivals in the Sorcerer's Council. Garvin held a controversial view that fairies could be allies, while many on the council believe fairies are evil and conspire to conquer humans.
Erris fears the new ambassador of magic Soleran Smollings will harm him if he discovers he's inside the automaton and believes his only hope to break the spell that keeps him trapped inside it is if Nimira can get word to Garvin's close friend, fellow sorcerer Karstor that he's at the estate.
But when Smollings arrives at Vestenveld to see the automaton, he already suspects it is the long lost fairy prince and devises a plan to trick Karstor into revealing that the clockwork man is Erris. Unless Nimira can get to Karstor first and warn him not to react to the automaton with recognition, Erris will be destroyed.
Meanwhile, strange things are occurring in the night at Parry's estate. A young woman with glowing orbs bobbing around her head bursts into Nimira's room screaming for help and is chased by Smollings wielding a sorcerer's staff.
Hollin, running in after them, tells Nimira the girl is a madwoman that Smollings is transporting to prison, but Nimira soon discovers that the woman is imprisoned on the third floor of Vestenveld and is being used by Smollings and the cruel servant woman, Miss Rashten, for dark magic.
With Smollings closing in on Erris, Nimira's only chance to save her fairy prince may be to go to the woman on the third floor and ask for her help summoning a spirit to break the spell. But even if the spirit has the power to free Erris from the clockworks, without a human body to return to, is Erris already beyond saving?
With some novels, you spend the first few pages getting your footing, trying to figure out what's going on, but with Magic Under Glass, you're instantly transported into the story without any effort. I loved the mixture of exotic and magical, and the subtle hints at romance, and finished the book with that delicious feeling you get from being swept away.