Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater: Book Review

Pub DateMarch 29, 2020
PublisherOrbit; Starwatch Press
Page Count304
GenreRomance, Historical, Fantasy
Goodreads Star Rating4.10
My Star Rating 3.5
half a soul by olivia atwater book review

Half a Soul Summary

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater is a regency romance fantasy novel that follows Dora, who lost half her soul to a fae lord when she was a child. Years later, her cousin is determined to help her so she orchestrates a trip to London where Dora can meet Lord Sorcier. But there is more to him than they both realize, and there’s more going on in London than either of them expected. 

Half a Soul Review

Half a Soul is a short, sweet read, perfect for cozy autumn days. The stakes of this book are low — no one is saving the world — instead, they are personal, closer to our main characters. And Dora is a fantastic heroine full of wit and fun comebacks, with her own opinions and genuine care for the world. She has agency and chooses to use it for good. 

The romance was probably one of my favorite elements of this book. Elias Wilder and Dora made such a sweet couple, and their affection for each other developed slowly, with good reasons. Elias sees Dora as strange but grows to care for her as she shows kindness to sick and poor people of London without any reservations. And I adored the dance scene where he makes the ceiling look like stars.

There are a few side characters that I enjoyed as well, though they mostly weren’t that prominent. 

At the same time, I’m still not sure how I feel about the fantasy world. Yes, it’s more like true fae than most books, but it all felt a bit too… fever-dreamy for my liking. 

Still, the biggest issue I had with Half a Soul are its sharp shifts in tone. It starts as, and for the most part is, a cozy romantasy. But then it inserts some really heavy issues like poverty and the treatment of homeless people in Regency London. And I agree that discussing these issues is important, but I’m not sure if these types of books are the best places to do it. Especially because they can’t properly be done justice while our heroes are half a step from smooching. 

All in all, I enjoyed Half a Soul despite these gripes, and it’s one of those books I like to reread when I’m feeling down. Highly recommend!


  • Readable, somewhat lyrical prose
  • Cozy vibes and a simple fairytale-esque story
  • Fun, sweet romance
  • Funny, relatable heroine
  • A decent fantasy world

Read Half a Soul If You Like

  • Cozy romance fantasy 
  • Fae (but not the Sarah J. Maas type of fae)
  • Sweet, tender romance
  • Funny heroines

Avoid Half a Soul If You Don’t Like

  • Lackluster worldbuilding
  • Sharp tonal shifts
  • Iffy mental health rep
  • Whimsical stories
  • More vibes than plot

Here are a few more things you should know about Half a Soul before you read it: 

  • Half a Soul is written in third-person POV from Dora’s perspective
  • It’s set in regency era, mostly in London
  • Dora lost half her soul as a child and her behaviour as a result is pretty autistic-coded, though I can’t speak to how well represented it is
  • Trigger warnings for death, illness, kidnapping of children, war themes, PTSD, child abuse, and bullying

Books Like Half a Soul

1. Dangerous Damsels Series by India Holton

If you’re looking for more historical fantasy romance, the Dangerous Damsels series will be right up your alley. It has three books and each of them follows a different heroine. 

The main premise of this world is that there are lady pirates whose houses fly and have cannons, there are witches, maid spies, and more. My favorite in the series is the second one, The League of Gentlewomen Witches, though the other two are also fun. 

All of these books are extremely funny and lean heavily into comedy, so they’re not the perfect match for Half a Soul, but they are cozy, romantic and whimsical. 

2. Other Olivia Atwater Books

While I personally didn’t like Longshadow or Ten Thousand Stitches, these two books will match the world and the vibes of Half a Soul perfectly because they belong to the same series. They’re somewhat interconnected, but each can be read as a standalone. 

3. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

This is another book that I didn’t really like, but you might enjoy if you liked Half a Soul. In it, Emily Wilde is a faerie scientist and she sets off on a journey to complete her book. It’s cozy, has a bit of romance, and definitely a lot of fae. 

4. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik 

This is by far my favorite suggestion on this list, and probably one of my favorite fantasy books of all time. It’s a standalone that follows three girls as they navigate the treacherous world of magic, fae and society that doesn’t want them to succeed. It has some fantastic themes, heroines you can root for, and a host of side characters that you’ll love. 


How many books are in the Half a Soul series?

There are three books in the Half a Soul series. The first one is Half a Soul, followed by Ten Thousand Stitches which is a Cinderella-esque tale of a maid that makes a deal with a fae lord in order to woo the one she loves. Finally, there’s Longshadow, which follows Lord Soricer’s daughter as she investigates mysterious events in London. 

Does Half a Soul have spice?

No, Half a Soul doesn’t have spice, though it is a very romantic novel. 

Can Half a Soul be read as a standalone? 

Yes, Half a Soul can be read as a standalone, though some characters from this book appear in other books in the series. 

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