The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg

The brilliant idea behind this novel took me fully unprepared for the feeling of amazingness that engulfed me upon finishing it. I fullheartedly recommend this book to everyone interested in Russian culture (!?), dystopia and mysticism — a beautiful combination!

My most favorite element of this novel was the world created by Holmberg through the character of Slava, the mysticist. There is a huge chunk of reality interspersed with bits of supernatural, barely visible to any other characters but Matrona and Jaska. I will not retell here the story, as you can find yhe synopsis on Goodreads.

My favorite character is Matrona, for her boldness and determination. It is amazing that she could muster the courage to make a change, despite all the magic and warnings that it might not be appreciated by all the villagers once the safe world they had known for 20 years was taken away from them. The paradox here: should one be content with an easy and comfortable life while being completely manipulated OR rather have free will to achieve their dreams through the harsh reality of life?

The dolls gave me creeps at times and I was almost angry with Matrona for not having the patience and enough self-control learn all the ropes from Slava before rebelling against his creation. I found the dolls a fantastic element, the author fully managing to portray their role and eventually to unravel the rules of Slava’s magic.

I absolutely got engrossed by Feodor and was so content with the answer given to him by Matrona in the end. He deserved nothing, such a low person. Surely his character was needed to balance the good with the bad, the magic with what was real. It proves at the same time how people can choose to be manipulated if that means they should not struggle, nor struggle much for their daily bread.

The Fifth Doll is a gem of a book, a lovely mix of dystopia and fantasy, blended with delicious bits of Russian culture and traditions. I fully recommend this book. I am so glad and thankful I had the chance to read an advance copy, courtesy of the author and Netgalley.

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