Book Title: The Fifth Doll
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Goodreads Link: Click here
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley in return for an un-biased review.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reviewing Ms. Holmberg’s books, it is that I can always rely on her for charm and imagination. Her newest novel, The Fifth Doll, delivers both in spades. I have to admit I have been stalking her list on Netgalley ever since I heard she was close to finishing the book. Lo and behold, I was granted the ARC on Friday. So much excite!
The description is intriguing…
Matrona lives in an isolated village, where her life is centered on pleasing her parents. She’s diligent in her chores and has agreed to marry a man of their choosing. But a visit to Slava, the local tradesman, threatens to upend her entire life.
Entering his empty house, Matrona discovers a strange collection of painted nesting dolls—one for every villager. Fascinated, she can’t resist the urge to open the doll with her father’s face. But when her father begins acting strangely, she realizes Slava’s dolls are much more than they seem.
When he learns what she’s done, Slava seizes the opportunity to give Matrona stewardship over the dolls—whether she wants it or not. Forced to open one of her own dolls every three days, she falls deeper into the grim power of Slava’s creations. But nothing can prepare her for the profound secret hiding inside the fifth doll.
Hook, line and sinker, right?! I have to find out what is in those dolls? I’m already committed. I know that opening these dolls will be like eating a bag of chips. I can’t stop at one!
So we start the story with the intriguing mystery of these dolls, as well as an excellent main character. Matrona is no Mary Sue, but she is still a strong female character. She’s not good with a bow and arrow, and has no martial arts skills. She is not a beautiful jack-of-all trades who every man in the kingdom falls in love with. She is a milkmaid. She’s pretty but not stunningly beautiful. She is close to 30 in a village where marrying early is important. She also has normal problems. She struggles with caring for emotionally distant parents while reconciling her own self-perceived failures in life. What will ultimately save her … is her heart. The moral courage and reliability that are at her core. I think that makes her a strong female character, even if she never wields a sword once.
I do recognize the author works hard at her craft, but there is an ease to her writing that allows you to drift in and latch on to the story effortlessly. There is excitement but you won’t be battling confusion or fantasy-fatigue. You know what I mean? It’s when an author packs too much extra fake language or complexities into a book, without giving you a chance to find your bearings. That can be a real pet peeve of mine when I’m reading fantasy or sci-fi. I shouldn’t have to swim against the current in order to get to the story. Ok, that was my second fish analogy. Time to stop.
Read The Fifth Doll. It’s a good weekend book! Then do yourself a favor and pick up some of Ms. Holmberg’s other novels. In fact, I think I’ve reviewed a couple already. You won’t be sorry.
Bonus Link for this book:
I really liked the descriptions of rural Russia, but am not familiar with the terms so I started a Pinterest Board for my research. I had to stop about 1/2 through because I was afraid I’d inadvertently post spoiler-y stuff. So there aren’t a whole lot of pins. But please visit it if you have a chance!
My reviews of other novels by Charlie N. Holmberg:
Song for this book: Baiushki Baiu – Sari Cucien