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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.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Romance

What listeners say about The Fifth Doll

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

69 people found this helpful

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Unique and Unexpected

This is unusual and inventive, and I like that. Everything Holmberg writes is unique. This is not my favorite of all of her books, but I'm glad I read it, since it was a nice taste of something truly different.

The magic is dark and eccentric in this one, but with a slight touch of fancy or whimsy. It has a bit of a Giver (by Lois Lowry) vibe about it, which I assume is intentional, but maybe not.

I like that every story she writes is creative and different from the other fantasy novels floating about. I also like how so many of them stand alone and yet feel complete in their world building. Somehow, Holmberg flies under the radar, but I think she deserves more credit for her interesting body of work.

61 people found this helpful

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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.


21 people found this helpful

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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.

15 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

14 people found this helpful

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<3

I love Charlie N. Holmbergs books.
They always have such different ideas mixed in with the old stories. :)

This audio book does not disappoint.

13 people found this helpful

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quirky idea

an interesting story, that was even brought to an convincing end but I couldn't figure out why the speaking voices were done with an accent. That really bothered me. It doesn't make sense unless the Russians were talking english with each other?

8 people found this helpful

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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.

7 people found this helpful

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A Nest of Trouble

If you could sum up The Fifth Doll in three words, what would they be?

Curiouser and Curiouser

Would you be willing to try another book from Charlie N. Holmberg? Why or why not?

Yes

What does Angela Dawe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Angela Dawe made this book happen. Her Russian accent and ability to vary her character's voices made listening seamless. You are drawn into another culture, another time.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

Any additional comments?

The story line dragged in the middle and the denouement left much hanging. A little more time at the end and a little less mucking about in the middle would have been more satisfying.

6 people found this helpful

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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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Veronica Marcano
  • 03-31-19

can not deal with the reading.

I am not sure if the story was any good as the way it was read distracted me too much. the book was read as a series of short sentences all with the same entonation and cadence as if the narrator was reading through a pile of cards each with one short sentence

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Krause Stefan
  • 11-06-19

It's not bad

I love Charlie N. Holmburg. And the actual story is quiet good, only in places a bit to long dragged out.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-11-17

The fifth doll

Unexpected twist, story flows well with believable characters. Made me want to know more about the fifth doll world

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Vixanne
  • 09-26-22

Loved this book!!!

Another brilliant Charlie N Holmberg! Well written entertaining story. Well rounded characters. With great narration….. Excellent

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Sophie
  • 05-14-22

A bit bleak

I didn't enjoy this. The tone is bleak throughout. There were some interesting concepts though: dolls representing people, revelations, alternative realities... It was like a crescendo towards the end of the book with more happening. There are some moral overtones to the book about being your true self. 


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  • Heather Trow
  • 10-24-21

Russian Inspired Soft Horror

Matrona finds a paintbrush on a path one day and assuming it belongs to a tradesmen nearby she decides to return it. When she arrives at his house there's no answer to her knocks, only some mysterious bangs. Thinking the elderly tradesmen is in trouble she enters his home. No-one is there, but in one room she finds an angry bird tethered to a perch and a table full of nesting dolls who resemble her friends and neighbours. No good deed goes unpunished, as the saying goes. When the tradesmen discovers Matrona's intrusion he attempts to persuade her to join his ominous cause.

Definitely one of the more creative Russian-based tales I've read. It's a concoction of magical elements, soft horror vibes, and a dystopian world; and the author clearly got her inspiration from matryoshka dolls and Russian history.

All in all, another enjoyable story from Charlie N. Holmberg. I didn't love it as much The Will and the Wilds or The Paper Magician series, but still really good. She has a wonderful way with words when describing thoughts and feelings as well as  scenery. I'm left feeling a little bit unsettled because the story was so haunting and poignant and didn't really come to a conclusive end. But then again you don't necessarily get happy endings with this author, but rather realistic ones.