The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg
What is it about folklore and fairytales that always draws me in and refuses to let me go until the very last page?! This was such a dark and twisted tale filled with sorcery and nesting dolls. I have never read anything like it and I loved every minute of it! This was such a refreshing read, new and different with twists and turns that kept me guessing what could possibly happen next!? I enjoyed how the story unfolded layer at a time, like each layer of the nesting dolls that this tale was about. Folklore always seems to grab my heart on some deep level of story telling and I love when an author incorporates that into their story. It feels like this is how a story is meant to be told. With hidden meanings, and lessons learned the story as a whole takes on its own personal meaning as each person interprets it in their own way, and how special is that when reading a book?!
This story was about a girl named Matrona, who has lived her whole life in a small village and is a loyal and faithful daughter to her parents and their dairy farm. She has always aimed to please them and that is all she needs to be happy. So when they arrange a marriage that will be good for the family, she is happy to oblige under the guise that this is how her life should be, and is meant to be. All until she is sent to visit the local tradesman, Slava. When she arrives at Slava’s unique home, she is suprprised to find it empty with the door ajar, so she enters in search of the other gentlman, hoping that nothing bad happened to him. She did not expect to find a room full of painted nesting dolls, all with the faces of her fellow villagers. Curious, she finds the one of her father and opens it up, unable to help herself. When she arrives back home later though, she starts to notice that her father isn’t acting normal. Something is off and Matrona can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with the strange dolls she found in Slava’s house. Soon she is pulled into a fight to right her wrongs and accept a responsiblity that she isn’t sure she can handle. There is so much more to her little village than she ever knew possible, and she must break from her little perfect routine to save those she loves before its too late.
The world building in this was so unique and perfect with the theme of the nesting dolls. i could see all the little village homes and their bright colors, and fenced fields that contained the neighbors fields for their livestock or crops. Being a small and simple setting it was easy to imagine and follow as we go along with Matrona through her daily chores and the bigger adventure she is led on as the story progresses. There is a hint of magic with the dolls, but other than that magic does not take part in the rest of the story. I like this, because there isn’t some crazy magic system to try and comprehend. We discover with Matrona, what magic the dolls hold and how it effects those who open them.
The romance in it starts out seeming like its going to be stiff and boring, but we quickly find out that even though Matrona will do what her parents wish of her and marry whom they want, she still has a heart that yearns for love, and love might not be with the man her parents chose. Jaska was a wonderful character and their friendship and forbidden feelings for each other kept the butterflies in my stomach churning throughout, hoping that they would somehow find a way to be together even though Matrona had never gone against her parents wishes, and Jaska was the son of the town crazy lady. But just as Matrona discovers that there’s more to this village than meets the eye, Jaska soon learns that maybe his mother’s ramblings are that crazy after all.
The adventure that ensues once things get going, kept me enthralled to the very end. I loved the dark sense of mystery that you discover things as the characters in the book do, leaving you to figure out what’s happening with them. I was on the edge of my seat wishing my eyes to read faster just to find out what happens. I love how everything wraps up neatly in the end with just enough to let your imagination run its course, but with enough solidity to keep you from feeling like there were any loose ends. I have read a few of Holmberg’s other books and really fell in love with the ease in which she writes and this book was no different. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. But until then, you should definitely give The Fifth Doll a read, you wont regret it!
If You Liked This Book
If you liked The Fifth Doll, then you should read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden . Both are filled with the rich Russian Folklore and the strong sense of culture throughout. I loved learning about their traditions and sayings while reading both of these books, and could see the imagery so vividly in my mind. I highly recommend The Bear and the Nightingale as its one of my favorites and I was reminded so much of it while I was reading The Fifth Doll.
Do you love or hate folklore? Is there a certain type you like if you do? I recently found that Russian folklore is really interesting and have been finding all sorts of books that contain it that have all turned out to be fantastic! I’m curious to know what you all think! Let me know in the comments below!