Monday, August 16, 2010

The Glass Maker's Daughter by V. Briceland

This book has been listed as “currently-reading” on my GoodReads for well over a year, but I assure you it’s not because it’s so sinfully atrocious it can only be digested between well spaced intervals.

Rather, it’s because I’m a freak who can’t smell the awesome sitting on her nightstand for a whole freaking year. But--whatever, I could go on about this forever.


In Cassaforte, this little, medieval piece of the world unlike any other, magic abounds. The hierarchical society is divided into a king; seven royal craftsmen families who’re each specialized in a trade (ship building, glass making, book making, to name a few) and able to manipulate magic to enhance their creations; thirty socialite families who standby to become a member of the Seven should one of them fail to perform the rite of fealty; and the common folk. The rite of fealty is a daily tradition that pledges the Seven’s loyalty to the king and to the binding powers of Cassaforte, thereby keeping each family’s magic intact.

Our third-person journey with main character Risa Divetri, the youngest daughter of the glass makers, begins just as she’s about to participate in the Scrutiny, an event in which the children between the ages of eleven and sixteen of the noble families are picked by one of the two gods of Cassaforte to be interned at their respective insulas (universities). There, they learn to practice their family’s magic.

Just as it’s Risa’s turn to be chosen, both the god and the goddess tell her she’s not needed at either insula. And just like that, the unprecedented happens: Risa is left unchosen and, in her eyes and in the eyes of society, worthless. Her glass making is too different from her family’s and without the ability to enchant it, she might as well be an invalid. She resigns to cursing the gods and not knowing quite what to make of herself…until the old king dies and whispers of corruption emergent from the prince threaten the royal families and the integrity of Cassaforte. Then Risa realizes the gods may have had something else planned for her, and goes on to kick some serious ass.

Ah, where to begin, where to begin! This one is not without its faults, to be sure, but there’s just so much to love. I guess I should begin with the structure of the society and the world created herein. I thought the lay of the society was très interesting: the Seven and the Thirty are regarded as snobby, socialite families who look down upon everyone else. But as Risa explains the guards who come to safeguard her during times of peril, the Seven are craftsmen and too busy perfecting their art to be occupying themselves with the crap the Thirty do. I thought that was genius, creating a place where the royals actually do something.

Also, the concept of magic! I can’t really explain without spoiling it, but let’s just say it’s unique. The families each use enchantments to make their products cutting edge--the Divetri’s glass windows can’t be destroyed; the Catarre’s books need only be read once and you’ll know them by heart. As you get deeper into the novel, you learn about its secondary uses and the logic behind it all--well, it's nothing short of creative.

Risa is (really) hard to swallow at times, what with her whining and failing to see the big picture, but I came out appreciating what all she did. Like I said, she kicks some serious ass and she’s a strong heroine for all she withstood and all she accomplished not long after her world collapsed. What's interesting is, I didn’t connect with her, or with the supporting characters, at first, and I was already picturing my review: "The novel starts with the ball already rolling, but the characters are to be looked at, observed, but not felt or sympathized with." But as the novel progressed and the plot began moving… Let’s just say I learned to appreciate the many endearing members of the cast that, while not deep enough to classify this as a character study, could carry the plot and do it with flair. Oh, and Milo, a guard sent to protect Risa. He’d fill up a review all by himself--I just loved him.

And the plot had so many HEART moments. Some have called it predictable, and while I could see some things coming, there were just as many I couldn’t. I thought it was quite well thought out and, aside from being action packed and taking you places you didn’t quite expect, it also had this HUGE end twist at the end that changed my opinion of the novel from “liking” to “great”.

Two remarkable plot things: at one time, Risa is saved by Milo and his sister, another guard, when they use sword-fighting techniques they read about in a Catarre book. We should memo this to the #waysreadingsaveslives committee.

ALSO. There’s a subplot of romance between Risa and Milo and it culminates in a library. JUST SAYING.

So! I did come out with some minor questions, but this novel is just, to me, uninitiated fantasy reader and medieval kingdom enthusiast, great. I feel like I struck gold, actually. What a gem of a novel! There’s just enough fantasy, just enough plot, just enough spirit--in short, more than enough to make you fall in love.


ETA: It is part of a series! The second book is out! I AM SO GONNA FIND OUT HOW TO GET THAT.

Flux | April 1st, 2009 | 320 pages | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon | Author Website / Blog | Excerpt


Steph Su said...

Alright, you've convinced me. Where can I get me one of these beauties as well?

Khy said...

I'm putting this book on my wishlist not only because of your awesome review, but also because the sequel has the word buccaneer in the title.

Amee said...

Sounds good! I still think it looks like she's holding a giant contact lens. :P

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