Owlcrate‘s November “Castles, Courts, and Kingdoms” book selection was The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano. A fantasy story set in a steampunk-esque world, The Glass Spare includes sibling relationships, curses, kingdoms at war, and awesome gadgets and gizmos!
As the fourth in line to the world’s wealthiest throne, Wil is often invisible to her father and his kingdom. But when she learns her touch can turn living things, including people, into crystallized gems, she is forced to flee. As she sets out to seek answers and a cure, she must also help her kingdom as it becomes entrenched in war.
The Glass Spare is a peculiar story that I can’t quite pinpoint my feelings about. On one side, there was a lot about this book that I loved—world-building, characters, Wil’s curse—but at times, I felt the plot lagged or that the pacing was off.
The world of The Glass Spare is a fantasy-steampunk hybrid. There are castles and swords and cauldrons, but then there are also mentions of airplanes, photographs, guns, and cool gadgets like data goggles and self-driving boats (?!?!). I understand it’s fantasy so you can do your thing and get away with it, but at times, it was hard to picture, despite how cool it sounded. (Honestly, it kind of reminded me of Fullmetal Alchemist, which is awesome so ??) I wish there had been a few maps and diagrams to go along with this story. A map of Wil’s hometown and the various kingdoms, diagrams of the data goggles or the dirigibles, etc. I just think every fantasy book should include a map to help me visualize, okay?
Then there are the characters. First, this book contains sibling relationships. Four sibling relationships! I freaking loved the dynamics between Wil and her three older brothers. Honestly, I think the story would have been interesting if it had just been about the brothers because I am curious about Gerdie’s alchemy work or what Owen’s diplomatic missions entailed. And then there is Baren. I have so many questions about that creepy bastard. I hope the next book in the series gives us more answers.
Wil as a character was cool too. I like how she learned to fight and has this daring personality. I feel like she’d get along with Lila Bard from A Darker Shade of Magic. I also like her curse. I mean, we’ve all heard the story of the king with the golden touch, but I like the twist of the crystallized gems and how creepy that is. Also, I like Wil’s journey as she goes to find answers. The book gives us some answers regarding her curse, but there is still more to learn in the sequel. There isn’t a magical cure that saved her immediately.
Then there’s Loom. Oh boy, Loom. The mysterious, dark, somewhat-of-a-love interest, somewhat-of-a-rebel, discarded prince. I like Loom. From his tattoos to his fierce attitude, I was enthralled by his character. There’s a particular scene that just steals my breath away when I think about it. I felt that his interest/romance with Wil was bordering on insta-love, but oh my gosh, there is a reason for it! There’s an actual reason they were drawn to each other, and I love it. It was different and not gag-worthy. So good job.
As for the plot and pacing, several events in the story were predictable, which made them less impactful. Sometimes I felt nothing significant was happening, that the story was just dragging along without much going on. But then BAM, I would get hit straight in the face with something that made up for all the “laggy” parts. There were also sporadic chapters that would switch back to the events at the castle after Wil left, and while they were cool and gave insight into what was happening politically, I just didn’t see the connection to Wil’s journey. Either the entire book needed to be about Wil and her brothers and include more scenes with her brothers or it needed to be solely about Wil. There are so many unanswered questions about her brothers, and yes, there is another book, but there are some pretty BIG threads that needed to be clarified before the book ended. Since this book wasn’t too long for fantasy, I’m surprised there wasn’t room for more.
Overall, The Glass Spare is an enthralling story about the dynamics of kingdoms and the power of curses. The book has a lot of highlights, but it still needed something more to make it fantastic. I need book two ASAP because I have so many questions that need answers. If you like fantasy with a dash of steampunk, girls who are deadly to the touch and carry around sharp knives, and boys with brains and tattoos and a desire for revenge, read this book.