Saturday, February 24, 2018

Review - The Glass Spare

Original Title: The Glass Spare
Series: The Glass Spare, #1
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Published: October 24th, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

I have no idea why I read this book. I just know that for some reason the cover and the plot got fixated in my head, and no matter my attempts to sort other books from my to-read jar, I kept thinking that I wanted to read this one. So I did, and oh, my God, it was such a good surprise! This is my first book by Lauren DeStefano, and my initial thought, after a couple of chapters, was that I will definitely be reading more by her. Her writing style –at least in this book– is so elegant, metaphors are so well used (and aren’t overwhelming), the writing is just beautiful, and engaging, and simply, captivating. If you like fantasy, you have to read this one!

On many nights in Wil’s childhood, the queen would hold her and rock her to sleep, and she would whisper, ‘Death itself is no match for you. The day you were born, it shrank away in fear.’

From the very start, the story is so powerful and promising, you just have to read the whole book. As I read I was surprised to find steampunk elements that I was not expecting at all, like the mention of trains and electricity, and of course, Wil’s data goggles. That was enough for me to paint in my head the whole steampunk picture for this world, which is absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait to keep exploring it along with Wil, Loom, Zay, and the rest of this amazing cast of characters. I loved the fact that this book went beyond the classic fantasy tropes. For one, Wil has both her parents, and each of them has their own personality and history, strengths and weaknesses, and well-defined reasons to be in the story. I loved to know about them, especially about the queen, given her past as a wanderer, and the way she kept her traditions, even after marrying into royalty. I will gladly read more about her in future books, if given the opportunity. 

I really, really liked Wil. She’s the fourth daughter in the Northern Arrod royal household, and the youngest of four siblings. As such, she and her brothers are usually forgotten, dismissed as spares, while the whole attention goes to the firstborn and heir, Owen. I loved the fact that she was a true fighter, and when her mind was set there was nothing that could dissuade her. When Loom captured her she fought to escape, and even when she was recaptured, made a second attempt, making it twice as hard for Loom. That’s the kind of hero material I like to read about, because she’s a princess and had her share of dresses and formalities, but she’s no weakling. She’s strong, mostly because she had to fend off for herself as the forgotten girl and spare, but also selfless, because she’s willing to do anything for those she loves, like Gerdie and Owen. By the way, I also loved her relationship with both of them, because even when they usually are relegated in favor of the heir, these siblings do not forget about each other, and are always there, being very protective with one another. As for Baren –the black sheep in the Heidle family–, I don’t exactly hate him (yet), I just think he’s really weird. He hates his siblings,and rejoices when something bad happens to them. No one in their right mind should let him sit on a throne. I just don’t get why he is haunted by Wil’s ghost, because she isn’t actually dead. I mean, I get it if he sees Owen, but Wil? There’s something seriously wrong about this guy. And by the looks of it, he’s going to be king very soon. I just hope we get to know more about their father’s sudden illness, beside that random scene close to the ending, in which he’s shown plagued by fevers. What happened to him? Did he just died because of the illness, or was he poisoned, or something? I have many questions I hope will be answered in the next installment of the series.

Wil’s curse is so interesting! Just as Pahn says, it’s not usual, as it produces riches, even when it only affects living things. I definitely want to know more about it, and why someone would curse her before she was even born. And Gerdie, even when alchemy and science are his world, will have to admit that there’s not a scientific explanation for her powers. I just hope he can learn that his sister is still alive, and they can team up to find the explanations they need. Just… the scene in which she turned the whole tree into stone. Until then, transformations were just amazing (if tragic), with the crystalizing sound and the gem slowly taking over after her touch, but here, it simply says “She thought of home, and the tree turned to stone”. Seriously, that’s it? Considering that Wil never transformed such a big thing, it was a golden opportunity to create a strong mental image, by delving into the description around the crystalizing, the variety of gems that could be produced, given the tree’s size and many colors… And considering that, before this moment, Wil hadn’t been using her powers much.

I really liked Loom, even when, from the moment he appears, you know he will become the love interest. It felt very convenient that he’s immune to Wil’s touch, but I was glad to be able to read the slow build-up of their relationship, as it had me rooting for them. It isn’t an insta-love, and there’s an actual explanation for them to be attracted to one another, around their curses. I loved to get to know him, his backstory, his curse, his family… I admire his courage to go against his father, knowing that his kingdom is worthy of a good leader, and he’s willing to be that leader. Oh, and Espel! Named after a poisonous plant, Loom’s sister is an incredible character with a lot of potential, given her ruthless upbringing and her attitude, and I do hope there’s more about her.

Zay is also a great character, with tons of potential, and I want to know more about her. She’s a fighter, and she can be ruthless if those she loves are threatened. I couldn’t believe his father when she was captured, I mean… really? Killing your own daughter, and mother of your grandson? Wow. I was glad she and Wil could get to be friends, even if their bond isn’t so strong just yet. They constantly butt heads along the book, as Zay doesn’t like Wil, but I do hope their friendship grows, not just because I like the idea, but because I don’t want to read a cat fight. That is always insufferable, and in this case there’s no reason for that, so I hope the author keeps avoiding it.

Silence was not the absence of presence—it was its own presence.

As I mentioned before, I was so surprised and delighted by Lauren DeStefano’s writing style. It flows perfectly, and it is so beautiful! There’s certain moments in which just a few subtle words are enough to say really powerful things. Like in this moment:

But they both saw the glint of diamond at his fingertip, and they knew that Arrod would never have him as its ruler.

She never uses the word “dead”, or any term, for that matter, directly referring to it, but you just know what happened and understand how terrible it is. That sentence stood out for me, and I just kept remembering it, over and over again, as I read the rest of the book. The metaphors are well used and just in the right moments, and they makes me want to say, to every author out there, “this is how you use them”.

Just, there was one moment that puzzled me. After Wil comes back in the ship with Ada, Zay throws a knife at her, and later there’s a scene of Loom tending her wound. He tries to cauterize it, and this happens: 

He pressed the burning blade to her skin and the cry Wil let out was not her own. It was the stunned wail her mother had made on the night she learned that her children were dead.

I have absolutely no idea why that is there. It feels out of place in the scene, unless it means that the pain of the cauterization is similar to the queen’s when her children died. But unless it is that, I don’t understand the reason for it to be there, because there’s no further references in the scene.

So, long story short, this was a great book, a very pleasant surprise. Every fantasy lover out there should give it a try, and I will for sure continue with the saga. The narration is fantastic, the worldbuilding is solid and layered, and there’s so much to discover yet, that the next book can’t come out fast enough! 


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