The Glass Spare – Lauren DeStefano – The Glass Spare #1 – Balzer+Bray – Published 24 October 2017
Wil Heidle, the only daughter of the king of the world’s wealthiest nation, has grown up in the shadows. Kept hidden from the world in order to serve as a spy for her father—whose obsession with building his empire is causing a war—Wil wants nothing more than to explore the world beyond her kingdom, if only her father would give her the chance.
Until one night Wil is attacked, and she discovers a dangerous secret. Her touch turns people into gemstone. At first Wil is horrified—but as she tests its limits, she’s drawn more and more to the strange and volatile ability. When it leads to tragedy, Wil is forced to face the destructive power within her and finally leave her home to seek the truth and a cure.
But finding the key to her redemption puts her in the path of a cursed prince who has his own ideas for what to do with her power.
With a world on the brink of war and a power of ultimate destruction, can Wil find a way to help the kingdom that’s turned its back on her, or will she betray her past and her family forever?
The Glass Spare is an imaginative fantasy novel that has steampunk influences, where magic mixes with technology, alchemy creates what modern advances cannot, and curses and marvelers war with modern beliefs. Political intrigue, the beginnings of a complicated and impossible romance, and two main characters with caring hearts who want to do right by their kingdoms and their people, even as it will cost them everything.
Wil is the fourth child and only daughter of the king of Arrod, the third spare, hidden from the world and unneeded except as a spy for her father and an errand carrier for her brothers. When Wil discovers strange powers, the ability to turn living things into glass and precious jewels, she is shocked but quickly warms to the sense of power it gives her. Until, in a moment of pride and independence, her gift quickly displays itself as a curse, killing one that she dearly loves and separating her from her family. On the run, exiled from her home, she meets another cursed royal, also exiled from his kingdom. Prince Loom demands Wil’s help and in return says he will help her find the man who can answer her questions.
The Glass Spare unfolds slowly. Gradually, readers become aware that the world within these pages is different from what one might expect from an epic fantasy. There is a clever mix between magic and modern advancements. They have electricity, generated by wind and water turbines and cars are starting to make their appearance in lands that have embraced technology. Yet there is still room for superstitions, curses, magic, and alchemy. To this end, the book has a slight steampunk feel to it, with Wil never without her data goggles, which can inform the wearer about all kinds of information from anatomy to ship parts, and transport mainly supplied by dirigibles or by boat.
However, I found that there was little action to really hook me into this story. The plot seemed to meander and the characters’ mistakes seem to direct the large plot points, which made it a hard novel to truly enjoy. I wasn’t sure where the story was going, nor what to expect and found myself wanting to put the novel down for lack of interest. The characters are strong, though, and well written. Wil is an easy character to like. She cares deeply about her family and often reacts to others out of that same caring attitude. Her brothers are equally complex and interesting, and there is surely far more to explore in her relationships with them and their purposes in the story. Loom, the exiled and cursed Southern Prince is also an interesting character who has a lot more to share. He too has a kind heart and wants to protect his people from his father and sister’s cruelty.
The last quarter of this book finally started to grab my attention – the story becomes more complicated, some explanations are provided and it helped me to see the characters, the romance in a different light. If the next book in this planned duology continues in this same way, then it is likely to be an interesting title.
While this first book in the Glass Spare series did not capture my attention or my heart, it certainly sets the stage for what should be an interesting and unique following book.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Curses, family, brothers, royalty, death, romance, kings.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Fantasy violence, murder, executions and injury and death by blade or poison. Vague sexual references.
Published: 24 October 2017 by Balzer+Bray
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 416 pages.
ISBN: 9780062491282, 0062491288