Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Glass Maker's Daughter

Which of us has not grown up enchanted by stories of Venice? Gondolas, Italian Art, Medieval Architecture... it's like something out of a story. Except that apparently in real life it smells.

But Cassaforte, which is the Venice of "The Glass Maker's Daughter" not only embodies everything we loved about the real Italian city, but also the lure of magic as well. And not the dark magic that fills YA fiction today, but a practical system of enchantments, much like the work of the Elves in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

Our heroine is Risa, daughter of one of the seven principle nobles of Cassaforte. Her parents are master artisans of all things made of glass, and Risa is on her way to following in their footsteps.

But then, she alone of all the young nobility is left unchosen by the Gods to join their schools of higher learning. Are the Gods real? Or do they just not care about Risa? What worth is her life now, left to be the only member of her family unable to complete the enchantments that make their work so valuable?

Things get worse when the King dies mysteriously, and Risa's parents are taken hostage by the conniving heir. Furthermore, all the houses of the nobles are under seige, and it is up to Risa and her friends to save them all.

I'm always skeptical when I pick up a YA book without a recommendation, as the medium so often produces poor quality work. "The Glass Maker's Daughter" caught my eye because I've always been entranced by the art of glassblowing. It's one of those crafts, like spinning and weaving, that can hold me enraptured for hours, just staring at the master craftsmen work. So I figured, even if the book wasn't well written, it still might prove interesting for the glassmaking element.

To my surprise, the book was better than I expected. Though not a five star book, it nonetheless is tightly plotted, fairly decently written, features some good characters, has a world-building system that was both easy to understand yet practical, and had laugh-out-loud humor. Also it is one of those books where a man manages to write a teenage girl and actually make her seem like a real teenage girl.

As I read the book, I noticed a few themes that seemed very in harmony with a Christian worldview. However nothing was so blatant that I went "oh, this is Christian fiction." Imagine my look of startlement when I read the acknowledgements and found that the book was inspired by a sermon the author heard! Kudos, Mr. Briceland! You've achieved more subtlety than the majority of Christian writers do today.

Will "The Glass Maker's Daughter" go down as a classic? No. Is it worth a read? Yes. Is it appropriate for all teens? Yes. I'd be quite comfortable passing this title along to any twelve-year-old with an interest in history, fantasy or glassblowing.

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