Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Glass Casket (2014)

The Glass Casket. McCormick Templeman. 2014. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Glass Casket has a great opening line,
"One bleak morning in the eye of winter, five horses and five riders thundered into the remote mountain village of Nag's End." 
It caught my interest and kept me reading until the very, very end, without a single break. For the record, I do NOT like horror novels. I do NOT like thrillers. Witches. Monsters. Vampires. Not my thing AT ALL. Yet, for some reason, I found myself unable to walk away from this fantasy novel. In other words, I found myself LOVING it.

After these strange riders fail to return, several men go up into the woods and investigate. What they found shocks them to say the least. One man is bloodied and his eyes and tongue are missing. The remaining four were found NAKED and frozen. One could reason that wolves might have killed one of the five men. BUT what would lead four men to strip off their clothes, fold them up, and allow themselves to freeze to death?! And what was up with the last journal entry found in their belongings that reads: It's starting. Tom Parstle is, I believe, the one who finds that journal entry. And he also removes something else from the scene, something that any fan of Pirates of the Caribbean could warn him against, a coin or medallion. "It was a circle enclosing a smaller circle. They were linked by seven spokes, empty spaces between them. He was leaning in to examine it more closely when he found himself suddenly queasy, as if beset by a noxious force" (19). The men return with some answers but more questions.

Rowan Rose is our heroine. She is Tom's best friend. She's super smart. She doesn't only know how to read and write, she knows how to read and write in several languages. She assists her father in his translating work. In fact, she is BETTER at translating than her father is. She does not want to marry. She wants to be a scholar. She thinks her father is supportive of her plans for the future.

Jude Parstle is Tom's brother. Jude has long been thought to be the lesser of the brothers. No one expects much of him, Tom, well Tom is "the good brother." Jude, well, Jude is allowed to do whatever. Rowan and Jude have a tense relationship: they are ALWAYS bickering. Everyone thinks that Jude hates Rowan, that he perhaps hates her because she's so brainy, though that is more Tom's theory. (Tom thinks his brother is only interested in one thing from a woman.)

Those five riders weren't the ONLY strangers to come to town. There were three other strangers: a glassblower, his wife, and a young woman that is OH-SO-EXTRAORDINARILY-BEAUTIFUL. Her name is Fiona Eira. Not everyone is pleased with these strangers. Rowan's father, Henry, is the most opposed. He insists that Rowan have NOTHING AT ALL to do with Fiona.

So what is Rowan to do when her best friend, Tom, falls madly, deeply in instant-love with Fiona? He HAS to meet her. He just HAS to. He begs and pleads with her to be the go-between, to seek her out, to introduce herself, to speak well of Tom, to arrange a meeting for them the next day. Rowan is creeped out by Tom's obsession in all honesty. But. She dares to disobey her father. She'll do it for her friend. At the very least, her helping Tom may help him calm down a bit.

But this wouldn't be much of a horror novel if Tom and Fiona live happily ever after...

The Glass Casket is definitely packed with action and suspense. There is a big mystery to solve. It is intensely violent. The scenes depicting violence--murder--are very graphic. It is also graphic when it comes to passion. Yet despite the fact that this one is in many ways plot-driven, I feel Templeman did a good job with characterization. I definitely had favorite characters.

Rowan and Obsessed-Tom talking about LOVE:

"Rowan," he said, "do you think it possible to love someone upon first laying eyes on them?"
"Well, the poets certainly thought it so if they're to be believed, a woman's eyes can know a future lover upon seeing him, and if the man sees the fire in those eyes, sees himself there, then he can fall in love before they've even spoken a word."
"But what do you think? Do you think it's possible?"
"I don't know. I suppose I like the idea of some part of our bodies knowing and recognizing our futures even if our minds cannot. That appeals to me. But no, I don't think it possible."
"You don't? Really? If your future husband came riding into the village one day, you don't think you'd recognize him immediately?"
"I don't think that's how it works."
"How does it work, then?"
"I think in order to love someone, you must know their heart. You need to witness their goodness, and you can't know something like that unless you've known someone for a while. I think familiarity breeds love."
"That's not very romantic of you."
"Isn't it?"
"I'm talking about love, grand love--that thing that makes you feel like your knees are about to give way, that certainty that you've seen the essence of your future in a pair of red lips."
"Tom, beauty isn't the same thing as goodness; it isn't the same thing as love." (52, 53)
Rowan on Jude:
Staring at him, she felt rage burning in her chest. How was it that he could make her so angry? How was it that he always seemed to know how she felt without her saying a word? It was unfair. He had no right to her feelings. Her temper getting the better of her, she strode over to him, her hands clenched into fists, and took a single wretched swing at him. The force she'd put behind the blow was intense, but she never connected, for he caught her forearm gently in his hand, and looking deep into her eyes, he held her gaze. (75)
Sample of atmosphere:
The funeral should have been the next day. It ought to have been. The village ought to have gathered in Fiona Eira's home and the elders ought to have performed the rites. She should have been covered in the funerary shroud, hiding the sight of human flesh so as not to offend the Goddess. Her body laid up on Cairn Hill at the Mouth of the Goddess, stones carefully arranged atop her resting spot. These were the things that ought to have been done. But sometimes things don't go as planned. (117)
It was a coffin. A glass coffin, intricately carved, and set out in the yard for all to see. Inside it was the girl, her black hair splayed out around her, her lips like rotting cherries set against a newly ashen complexion. (129)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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