Author: Jeff Wheeler | Publisher: 47 North
Storm Glass was a recommendation from Asha @A Cat, A Book, and a Cup of Tea. One of the great things about this bookish community – I get so many fantastic recommendations for books from other bloggers’ reviews! Asha definitely had some issues with it, but her review intrigued me enough to give it a go.
Storm Glass is essentially a coming of age story about two young women finding their way in a strictly hierarchal, quasi-Victorian society. We follow the lives of two young girls (Cetti and Sera) from very different backgrounds, who are somehow more similar than appear at first glance. While this coming of age plotline is straight out of the standard fantasy playbook, Storm Glass scrapes by mediocrity with its interesting meld of history and steampunk worldbuilding.
Although they lacked depth and distinction, I actually rather enjoyed the characters. The protagonists, Cetti and Sera, in the best tradition of young heroines, are plucky, smart, and resourceful. They’re well set against a cast of rather Dickensian “baddies” in the form of a conniving, slightly frightening, housekeeper; a whole host of crooked politicians and lawyers; and the unsuitable, gin-soaked guardians for the Oliver-esque children of the slums. I thought they were fun.
The plot itself was fairly standard fair in YA fantasy: a coming of age story about two young girls overcoming odds which are unfairly stacked against them. No-one could say it broke any boundaries. But, personally, I don’t mind that. If wasn’t blown away by its innovation, the pacing was good and the set up interesting enough to keep me reading. Dual narratives don’t often work for me, but I think they made the plot fuller in this case. It took me awhile to cotton on to the fact that there is actually a third narrative running alongside, in the form of letters of commentary by a society woman – and to realise that that narrative couldn’t necessarily be trusted. I thought that was an interesting device, and was one of the cleverer aspects of the book.
I did feel that the writing lacked a certain finesse. Some of the language felt a little formulaic, a little too contrived, the dialogue lacked that sense of voice which hooks you into the conversation, and it was a little “tell not show” when it came to the descriptions and character movement. It could have done with a polish, and that did slightly spoil my enjoyment of the book. The points about societal ills were a little laboured, a little too hammered home.
The worldbuilding was really the best part of this story. I loved the fantastic mix of Victorian steampunk, historical fiction, and fantasy. I thought the details were captivating and gave Storm Glass a real flavour all its own. The sense of place was carefully constructed and well textured. I’m a big fan of books set in Victorian London, and fantasy (though the two don’t often collide), and the way they were combined was definitely entertaining.
While I wouldn’t say that Storm Glass was a complete success, and I think Asha makes some very good points in her review, I did enjoy it in the end. It was light and fun, with strong plotting, and delightful worldbuilding.