The Fifth Doll
by Charlie N. Holmberg
I'm a huge fan of Holmberg, having read all of her "Paper Magician" series and loved them. I did avoid this one for awhile, since I didn't enjoy her "Followed by Frost" novel that much, and based on the title and cover, it looked like it might be more of the same. But eventually, curiosity got the best of me, and I picked it up.
I'm glad I did.
The story follows Matrona, a twenty-something girl in an idyllic village. And you know, things are just a little too perfect. One day, she returns a paintbrush she finds on the sidewalk to Slava, an old man in the village. He's not home, but she explores his house anyway... and finds dozens of matroyshka dolls. These are the dolls that are made of wood or ceramic and have littler dolls inside of them, nested until the tiniest doll is very small. Slava discovers her and forces her to open her own doll -- with disastrous consequences.
Holmberg was a student of Brandon Sanderson and it shows (in a good way). She's got a knack for coming up with incredible magic systems and deriving enjoyable, fun stories around them.
If you enjoyed Uprooted or any of Jeff Wheeler's books, you'll probably enjoy this one.