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Review: The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg

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The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg // VBC ReviewThe Fifth Doll
Charlie N. Holmberg
Published: July 25, 2017 (47North)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 3.5

Matrona has always tried to be the dutiful daughter her parents expect her to be. She stays on top of her chores and never complains. She’s even gone so far as to agree to marry the man of her family’s choosing, despite having a long-harbored secret attraction to a younger man in her village. Pretty much she’s living the status quo. There’s nothing really to shake up the comfortable existence that she and everyone else in the village have carved out for themselves.

That is, until one day, on her way home, Matrona decides to pay a visit to Slava, the local tradesman. Upon entering his empty house, Matrona discovers a room filled with nesting dolls. Dozens of hand-carved dolls that strike an eerie resemblance to the people of the village. When she finds the doll that resembles her father, Matrona’s curiosity is too much to keep her from messing with it. The next day, when her father begins acting in a strange and confused manner Matrona figures out that the dolls are more than just decorative; they actually hold some kind of magical force over the village.

As Matrona tries to unravel Slava’s connection to the dolls and what is going on in her village, she begins to piece together the puzzle of the past and visions of a place long forgotten.

I really loved the idea and, frankly, the imagery behind The Fifth Doll. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t familiar with a nesting doll, and to have a whole village’s inhabitants tied so intricately to said dolls gives them this sinister quality that I never would have associated them with until now.

However, the way the mystery unfolds for Matrona, along with readers, was too unfocused for my tastes. The little breadcrumbs that we are given are nothing compared to the big info drop we get toward the end of the book. While the truth behind everything was really intriguing, I would have liked things spread out a little more throughout the story.

As for Matrona, I could really feel her frustrations at living a redundant kind of life, but at the same time her reluctance to rock the boat. This is elegantly played out in Matrona’s attraction to the younger Jaska. The romantic element is definitely a secondary element, but it’s used as a device to get Matrona out of her shell a little bit. I liked the somewhat unconventionality of the relationship, for the time period.

Overall, The Fifth Doll is full of interesting concepts and magics. If the information was paced out a little differently I’d probably be giving it a higher rating. As it stands, Charlie Holmberg has never disappointed when it comes to going off the beaten path in regards to the stories she tells and The Fifth Doll stands up really well next to its predecessors.

Sexual content: kissing, references to sex

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