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Publisher's Summary

The bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series transports listeners to a darkly whimsical new world where strange magic threatens a quiet village that only a desperate woman can save.

Matrona lives in an isolated village, where her life is centered on pleasing her parents. She's diligent in her chores and has agreed to marry a man of their choosing. But a visit to Slava, the local tradesman, threatens to upend her entire life.

Entering his empty house, Matrona discovers a strange collection of painted nesting dolls - one for every villager. Fascinated, she can't resist the urge to open the doll with her father's face. But when her father begins acting strangely, she realizes Slava's dolls are much more than they seem.

When he learns what she's done, Slava seizes the opportunity to give Matrona stewardship over the dolls - whether she wants it or not. Forced to open one of her own dolls every three days, she falls deeper into the grim power of Slava's creations. But nothing can prepare her for the profound secret hiding inside the fifth doll.

©2017 Charlie N. Holmberg. (P)2017 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What members say

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Living the Fantasy

The author of the story created such a whimsically twisted fantasy; I loved All parts of it.

We start off in a small remote village in Eastern Europe. Our protagonist (Matrona) lives a sheltered life as a milk maiden. She is quiet, meek, obedient, and will do anything to make her parents happy. Her curiosity gets her into trouble when she discovers mysterious nesting dolls in the house of the local tradesmen. Because of her discovery, she is forced into a reluctant partnership with the tradesman; this includes opening The dolls.

The dolls are so sinister yet intersting. As Matrona opens the dolls, things around her begin to change. Her character development is remarkable. She becomes smarter and bolder because of what happens when she opens the dolls. While the other characters were interesting, Matrona captured my heart. Her journey felt so real, even though it's a fantasy. As the story went on, I constantly felt scared but I could not stop listening.

The danger and mystique in The Fifth Doll is positively addictive. It reminded me a lot of The Giver. There's important themes like love, friendship, history, magic, family loyalty, tragic heroes, and then some. I could go on and on about how amazing this book is. But honestly, stop wasting time and listen already.

  • Overall

Well done fantasy

From the matrioska doll on the cover, I thought this was going to be a Russian spy novel. But it's a fantasy. Still, the narrator's accent, and the bits about peasant life in Russia were interesting. I'd like to read more from this author.

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Such a unique magical story

This author never fails to amaze with unexpected unique and fantastical stories. The narrator did an excellent job with the accents.

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great story

great story, awesome narration. creative story line that held my attention. I've enjoy all the books I'm heard from this author.

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The Fifth Doll

Interesting; held my attention to the very end. I love anything written by Charlie Holmberg.

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  • Yvonne
  • Southfield, mi, United States
  • 09-11-17

A MUST read!

I really loved the prose, the imagery and originality in The Fifth Doll. Matrona returns a paint brush to Slava, the tradesman, and forever change her world. Matrona follows the traditions of her family and community. Her her with Slava, does not follow any familia or social norms. Slava takes advantage of the situation, returning a paint brush, to make her his protege. Using the threat of hurting her love ones, she unwilling agrees. Magic is unknown to her and being a strong independent woman, she does not easily follow the precautions/demands Slava makes.

The result of un-nesting the dolls, Matrona, is labeled as a wanton woman by the people of the village, just for her thoughts, she is mentally assaulted with her perceived faults, she sees unexplained events outside her understanding and her vision of the world is altered.
When Matrona opens each doll, there are disturbing consequences. Her secret thoughts are revealed to the entire village, she has excruciating headaches, and hears an inner voice chastising her for her faults. Her vision is alerted. She sees faint lines in the sky and snow for the first time! .

Through the nine days of her training, Matrona realizes what her life lacks and what she wants for her life. Her inner strength makes her determine to find answers that Slava refuses to answer. Contrary to the social norms. She is driven by the desire to understand the dolls and intuition there is something sinister.

With parents, and fiancé demanding for her to be dutiful, she feels trapped and alone. Matrona can’t escape through the forest. Each path she tries leads her back to the village. When she can no longer deal with it alone, she shares her experience with Jaska. Their friendship breaks all the norms; older woman younger man, engaged woman and single man, woman from a good family and man whose family live in shame. Through their efforts they discover the secrets of the dolls and change the life of the villagers forever.

The Fifth Doll is full of interesting concepts and magics. But it is nine days before any real action happens. The changes to Matrona’s life each time she removes a doll is a buildup in suspense.

This is a wonderfully written story.


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kind of disappointed

Usually I love all of Ms Holmberg's books. However, I just didn't connect with this one very much like I have the rest of them. The plot could've been really great but it seems like it just kind of fell flat . Her other books take you to magical places as well but there's a spark that captures your imagination and this one just didn't have that for me.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Hannah Groom
  • 10-02-17

Not What I Was Expecting

This is very different to Charlie N. Holmbergs Paper Magician series, which I loved. Nothing against this book, but its really not my type of thing. If you like darker magical fiction in a realistic yet slightly historic setting, then this book is for you.