The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero – REVIEW
In the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope.
Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.
The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter–that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.
But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.
“You can destroy a person, Karolina, but destroying their story is far more difficult. No one is ever really lost as long as their story still exists.”
I bought this book for 99p on eBay in like-new condition. I had no idea what it was about but the cover was beautiful and the price was incredibly cheap. This is one of those instances where you should definitely judge a book by its cover because the story is enchantingly beautiful. As soon as I opened the book, I was greeted by stunning illustrations and borders inspired by Polish cut-paper art. Each of the tales set in the Land of the Dolls is accompanied by these beautiful borders. Some books are superficially perfect but lack substance – this book is not one of those. I can’t begin to explain how enchanting it is, and what a magical, mysterious, poignant, tragic, beautiful, and hopeful spell it weaves around the reader.
“Being around a magician is like that … Like everything is bending around them because they’re brushing the stardust and raindrops from another world off their shoulders.”
Beginning in 1939 in Krakow on the brink of the Second World War, the story alternates between the Dollmaker in Krakow and Karolina in the Land of the Dolls, another world fighting a war. Karolina is a doll that magically comes to life in the Dollmaker’s shop just when he most needs her. The Dollmaker is haunted by the First World War and finds solace in making toys. He has the potential to do magic as evidenced by bringing Karolina to life, but will his magic be any use in the coming war, especially when Karolina is warned about the threat posed by a German magician, a man who can and will cause irreparable damage? I loved the characters of Jozef and Rena, a Jewish father and his daughter who the Dollmaker and Karolina befriend. Their heartwrenching story and Jozef’s plea for the Dollmaker to save Rena lead to a tragic series of events that seem inevitable yet no less devastating for that.
“My soul already existed – you just called out to me, and the wind brought me to you.”
The lyrical writing style is infused with the simplicity of fairytale language. It’s categorised as a Middle-Grade novel but I thought it was closer to YA. To me, it seems like magic is someone’s ability to change the world around them, whether for good or bad. The courage, kindness, and compassion of the Dollmaker’s magic are at war with the terror and destruction spread by the German magician. Literature, art and music are other forms of magic, coming to life the more they’re repeated and seen. There’s a poignant and timely reminder from the author at the end of the book that we still live in a world of prejudices and hatred, and that magic and compassion are needed now more than ever. As you can no doubt tell, I adored this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it.
|About the Author
R. M. Romero is a Jewish Cuban-American author. Afflicted with a terrible case of wanderlust, she travels frequently, although she currently lives in Miami Beach with her witchy black cat. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program.
When she is not writing, R. M. Romero occupies her time reading fairy tales, taking care of a feral cat colony, and studying the German and Polish languages.