Happy Friday, everyone! Since I almost always have a book I’m reading (whether or not I actually register it as “currently reading” in my goodreads account), I thought I’d start sharing personal book reviews now and again.
And what better way to start than with this gorgeous book (both inside and out) of Charlie N. Holmburg’s, The Fifth Doll.
Seriously, how gorgeous is this cover?!
It’s clear from the get-go that something is not quite right in Matrona’s village, though she herself isn’t aware until a fateful action sets her on the path to unraveling the mystery. Charlie N. Holmberg’s latest book, The Fifth Doll, fluctuates between the romance of an old Russian village, the beguiling spell of a fantasy tale, and the compelling lives of the characters brought to life throughout its pages.
The main character, Matrona, is a dreamer who longs for love, but with realist parents and an impending arranged marriage, it seems she’s destined for a life devoid of it. When she happens upon the collection of painted nesting dolls in the mysterious Slava’s house, she can’t resist the urge to touch one–one with a remarkable likeness of her father painted on it! But when her father starts acting strangely, she realizes there must be more going on in tradesman Slava’s house.
But when Matrona goes to confront Slava, he turns the tables on her and decides Matrona is going to be the next keeper of his secrets–whether she wants to or not! Matrona must follow Slava’s demands…or else. Between his dictates and her parents’ and betrothed’s expectations, Matrona soon finds herself in a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. But with each action she takes, and resulting consequence she endures, Matrona grows in strength and resolve: she will learn the mystery of the dolls. And perhaps she might find the love she longs for after all…
Reading this book was itself very like opening a set of Russian matryoshka dolls. Each layer of the story had a new problem, a new hope, a new secret to learn, and every time I thought I knew where things were headed, another layer broke open and took the plot in a new direction. The Fifth Doll is incredibly unique, quite refreshing to read, and genuinely hard to put down! It only took two days to fly through it, and I could have easily read it all in one sitting if I hadn’t had the mundane distractions of everyday life plaguing me.
What made this story go above the average tale for me were the vivid characters and the beautiful language employed skillfully by Charlie N. Holmberg. Matrona is a very believable and likeable character–super important in a main character. I was able to easily sympathize with her without feeling like the author was manipulating me to do so. She does have real faults but they are understandable and true to her character. Slava walks the appropriate tightrope for his good-guy-or-bad-guy-? persona; menacing but weary, demanding but regretful. And the character of Matrona’s mother also stood out to me as a very realistic portrayal. Her harsh demeanor and sharp words were very believable traits, due to her situation in life and its toll on her.
As for the language, here are a few lines that I absolutely loved!
“It sent moth wings up her arms and over her shoulders.”
“By the time she reached the church, her lungs blazed like two oil lamps.”
“Serpents coiled around her chest, thinning her air.”
“Her entire body became a heartbeat.”
“A good sign, yet Matrona’s nerves stung her limbs like hornets.”
“Matrona’s skin burned like he was the sun.”
All in all, this is a gem of a book, with enough mystery, magic, romance, historical notes and action to please readers from virtually any genre. This is probably the best book I’ve read so far this year—I don’t give out five-star reviews easily!
I was given an advanced reading copy of this book, but my opinion is 100% my own and I’m already planning to purchase and give physical copies for myself and friends of mine after the July 25th release of this book. It’s that good. 😉
Check it out here for yourself!