Novels like this are strong arguments for the use of the public library. I might have spent perfectly good money had it not been for this brilliant institution.
Once upon a time, the land of Lorinar was enchanted by "trouser girls", exotic young woman from the eastern land of Tassim who danced in baggy trousers and silken slippers singing exotic songs such as "The Dragon Maidens Revenge" but that fashion has fallen out of favor. Now Nimira is reduced to singing in a penny music hall, dreaming of the days when her mother was the dancer and the money was plentiful. It seems an answer to prayer when Hollin Parry, a real life gentleman, hires her to perform with his piano playing automaton. He is convinced that the contrast between the living, breathing Nimira and the wooden prince of the piano will create a fantastic diversion for his guests.
The offer is not all it appears though. While Hollin is clearly a rich, landed gentleman it is also clear he is not in command of his own home. Miss Rashten, the head housekeeper, seems strangely more in charge than her employer. More, she has the power to forbid them both the upper levels of the house, a place that holds a strange lure for Nimira.
The job also doesn't appear as easy as it first sounded. It isn't long before Nimira discovers that two girls had been hired before her to perform with the mechanical wooden man. And that both had fled the house claiming that the automaton was haunted. When the wooden man tries to communicate with her, Nimira realizes that Hollin will never believe her without evidence, so she does what she thinks best; she communicates right back! As she and the wooden man figure a way to speak using the piano she learns he is, in fact, enchanted. And his story is a dangerous one indeed. . . .
Part Jane Eyre and part fairy tale, this book winds up thoroughly confused as to where it is going. The unique tale and location intrigue but the simplicity of the story telling and the authors inability to write a cohesive story make sure that intrigue falls flat.
In addition, the characters were difficult to grasp. Or maybe they just weren't likable. While Hollin was amiable and friendly he was also spineless and dishonest. Since he wasn't one of those sinister characters that is sugar on the outside and poison on the inside I found it very confusing. There was nothing that indicated to me why the dichotomy existed, except as it went to further the plot. That annoyed.
Nimira was odd also. While she was a better person by far than Hollin, I didn't understand her motivations. That would have been fine but she also just didn't engage my interest, which wasn't fine.
Overall, the book was flat and while the premise was interesting the execution did not live up to its promise. I would have gone with a C but it earned a minus for taking time out to do a lecture via character at the end.
Tea: Don't waste a cuppa.