Goodreads: The Glass Sentence
Series: The Mapmakers Trilogy #1
Sophia Turner lives in 1891 Boston–at least that’s the year according to the old manner of reckoning. In 1799, an event known as the Great Disruption threw time off across the world, plunging some countries back into the Dark Ages and throwing others far into the future. Fractured by the different ages, the world began a new age of exploration and mapmakers gained new prestige. Sophia’s parents were explorers but never returned from an expedition, so she lives now with her uncle, the famed cartologer Shadrack. When Shadrack is kidnapped, however, it is up to Sophia and her new ally Theo to travel the world and bring him home.
The premise of The Glass Sentence intrigued me from the start. Cartology, exploration, and different time periods all rolled into one giant, glorious adventure! It sounds perfect. Can’t decide if you want a medieval adventure or a sci-fi one or maybe a period drama? You can potentially have them all. And then imagine the science you can throw in as the adventurers set forth to navigate new worlds. It’s a giant hodgepodge of all things wonderful.
At least, that’s what I had assumed. Once I began reading, the pacing seemed slow and I found myself repeatedly putting the book down in favor of other stories. Sophia and her uncle Shadrack, though likable, do not prove likable enough to carry the story. And, as the book progresses, more and more elements are introduced, so that suddenly readers are confronted not only with multiple time periods but also with tales of magical monsters, human/machine and human/plant hybrids, maps that can capture memories, and more. The hodgepodge that I thought would be wonderful actually borders on the overwhelming.
I could have accepted that a story based on the idea that the world exists in different time periods would also include magical elements (or elements that seem magical, perhaps because science has not yet explained them), but no explanation for most of these elements is ever offered. Rather, readers are expected blindly to accept that humans can merge with plants, that maps can steal memories, and more. Add to this the unsustainable notion that multiple time periods can exist in one location (as in, one street in a city can be one time period and a couple yards to the left is another time period) and it all starts to become too much. Yes, certainly, if one were to take biological samples, say, the plant life might be older in one spot, but how can one country have various time periods but not merge the technology and customs to form one relatively coherent culture? Why would half the citizens choose to live without technological and medical advances while their neighbors got to use time-saving devices and be saved from devastating illnesses? Just a few words of explanation about any of this would have helped me to immerse myself more fully into the world.
I must admit, too, that even though the world S. E. Grove creates is vast, varied, and magical, it was not quite what I was expecting. From the premise, I anticipated, as I have mentioned, something slightly more akin to historical fiction than to fantasy, though, of course, with fantastic elements. But none of the time periods through which Sophie travels seems particularly historical. Indeed, even if any of the zones she crossed were historical, the presence of flamboyant pirates, cyborgs, and more distract from it. I enjoyed the world, I truly did. I just want to mention that if you expected some sort of historical romp similar to something like Doctor Who, you may be a little disappointed.
Aside from these criticisms, The Glass Map is a solid fantasy adventure. It provides the requisite spunky heroine, her faithful sidekick friend, plenty of chase scenes, and a little bit of mystery courtesy of the villain and her shadowy motives. Though I will not be running out to buy the sequel as soon as it appears, I enjoyed the idea of The Glass Sentence enough to continue adventuring with Sophie and her friends. After all, this is a debut work and Grove has time to refine her plots.