Title: The Glass Magician
Author: Caroline Stevermer
Genre: Fiction/ YA/ Fantasy/ Magic/ Mystery
Favourite Quote: ‘Thalia and Nutall put up their umbrellas and walked through the crowds along Broadway as far as Greeley Square, doing their best to ignore the sporadic din of trains passing over head on the elevated railway. Other cities were crowded. Other cities had streets filled with traffic. But nowhere Thalia had ever been could match New York City for that particular sense of purposeful importance. Maybe the people jostling her on the pavement were going nowhere in particular, but everyone had an air of great urgency and immense determination. Thalia loved it. The damp April breeze carried a vivid mix of scent. Over the ordinary traffic smells of horse manure and engine exhaust, Thalia picked out the more enticing aromas of roasting coffee beans and grilling sausages.’
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.*
Thalia Cutler always felt at home up on the open stage as a magician, she is known as the elegant Lady of the Lake for her magical acts. Performing her magic for all to see all over the country, traveling out of a suitcase has never felt like an inconvenience, especially when she travels with her guardian David Nutall, her late father’s best friend. As a Solitaire, she was never expected to live in high society unless she could prove to be one of the magnificent onstage magicians, which she is determined to do. When an act goes wrong on stage which leaves her in a perilous situation, Thalia isn’t prepared for her hand forming into feathers to allow her to escape with her life. Only Traders transform, and she is no Trader. How could she be? Her parents weren’t Traders. Traders had wealth, privilege, not to mention the ability to transform into animals. Real magic. Not the slight of hand Thalia was used to. When her act suddenly get’s cancelled for copying another magicians act, she is determined to spend this time to discover the truth about herself, her family as well as her rival who has accused her of stealing the act her father had passed down to her.
‘The numbness in Thalia’s left wrist had turned to fire. Stubborn to the end, angry with herself for failure. Her whole body went from numbness to pins and needles everywhere. She looked up, ready for the sword, angrily resigned to pay the price for her clumsiness with the jammed cuff. But Thalia could not see her left hand. She saw something white, something she didn’t understand. It could not be what it seemed, white feathers forming a shape like the tip of a bird’s wing. Before she could make sense of what she saw, Thalia fell at last, free of the cuff. The trapdoor in the throne clicked shut as she fell into blind darkness.’
I really enjoyed this story, it wasn’t like anything I’d read before. It was interesting to read about the various classes of the world, the Traders, Solitaires and the Sylvestri the author had incorporated into New York City in the early 1900s. I have to say, it did take a while to get my head around it, I know the author attempted to create a foundation at the beginning when introducing the various factions but it still took time. It wasn’t until Thalia accepted her position as a Trader that it all really fit into place for me – others might be quicker on the ball with it. To put it simply, Traders are in the graces of high society with position and status as well as the ability to transform into an animal, a part of their soul, and usually the same type of animal is passed down the family through generations. Solitaires meanwhile, are the bottom of society who tend to serve the Traders in their position, they don’t have any special gifts or abilities, I guess the best way to describe them would be Muggles? Sylvestri don’t get a lot of mention within the story as they aren’t really connected the main characters until the end, but from what I understand, they prefer their own bubble away from both Traders and Solitaires, in all sense, they would rather live in the forest surrounded by nature if the choice was so.
‘The servants, Thalia judged, were ordinary Solitaires like her. No Trader would serve another. No Sylvestri would be engaged as servants, even if they took it into their heads to apply for positions ill-suited to them. They were too different from Traders, too unpredictable in their behaviour. Sylvestri cared more for a flowering tree than they did for any human’s comfort, even their own.’
I really liked the setting of the story, New York City in 1905, a wonderful charm full of possibility and prosperity. A chance for a new beginning in the streets of NYC. Not that it didn’t have it’s darker side, even the characters were wary of walking around the city at night, with or without the threat of the Manticores. Although you didn’t get to experience the surroundings in all it’s potential, you could still put yourself into the setting easily, whether it was walking down Broadway in the rain, backstage at the theatre or simply looking out to the Hudson river from Riverside house.
I liked the characters in the story, they didn’t have much of a back story but the author did a good job in putting them in their place in the present. Thalia was a great main character with a determined purpose and dreams of a life on stage for all the world to see to make her dad proud. She’s got a strong disposition, even when she discovers that her entire life is a lie, she doesn’t dwell on it, but faces her future one step at a time, determined to find out the truth. Even if that means being accused of an accomplice of murder, her only friend taken away from her and being held prisioner in a strangers home until she comes to terms with who she really is otherwise risking her own life.
The entire story is written only from Thalia’s perspective, which I think could have been adapted to include some of the other characters to really come to terms with their own individual circumstances. There seemed to be a lot going on in the story which I felt we missed being so restricted to Thalia and her limited knowledge. I would have liked to have experienced more from Nutall and even Ryker.
It would have been interesting to have seen a bit more between Thalia and Nathaniel and whatever their blossoming attachment is, you could see that it was slowly leading to something, but then we were left with nothing. It felt like it was missing something.
What if you could turn into the animal of your heart anytime you want?
With such power, you’d enter the cream of New York society, guaranteed a rich life among the Vanderbilts and Astors, movers and shakers who all have the magical talent and own the nation on the cusp of a new century.
You could. If you were a Trader.
Pity you’re not.
Thalia is a Solitaire, one of the masses who don’t have the animalistic magic. But that is not to say that she doesn’t have talent of another kind—she is a rising stage magician who uses her very human skills to dazzle audiences with amazing feats of prestidigitation. Until one night when a trick goes horribly awry…and Thalia makes a discovery that changes her entire world. And sets her on a path that could bring her riches.
Or kill her.