Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent Reading: Still whittling down the physical TBR pile

First:

Glass Sentence

Beautiful cover. Great description, too: Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods. Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself. …. Then Shadrack is kidnapped.

However, I found the execution disappointing. There was no feel that the world had been fractured by having different times crash into one another. Instead, this world felt as though different magical fantasy realms had intermingled.

People with wings that are really leaves? With orchid roots growing on their heads instead of hair? With iron teeth?

Faceless weeping spirits that haunt people and drive them to despair?

Onions that are really maps you peel to see the way to your destination?

Maps that are made by putting together eyewitness accounts and creating an overall memory of a place or event?

Don’t tell me all this comes from the distant future. Don’t even bother. It is reasonless fantasy magic. This was a great disappointment to me, since I really looked forward to the interweaving of different historical periods.

The world doesn’t make sense on its own terms, either. How can you have three wealthy cities in a land where everything around the cities is stricken by poverty, as in the Baldlands? How exactly do those cities maintain their wealth? Not by trade. Or by growing or making anything. Magic prosperity!

For me, the writing was not catchy enough nor the characters engaging enough to carry this story. It’s on the giveaway pile, despite that cover.

So, next:

Vessel

Another beautiful cover!

I enjoyed VESSEL far more than THE GLASS SENTENCE.

Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe’s deity, who will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious–and sure that it is Liyana’s fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

This story read a bit young to me, and a bit slow. It seemed to take forever to get all the “vessels” together and go on with the rest of the story. On the other hand, I did not really get impatient, because the reading experience was a pleasure. I loved all the tiny little stories woven by all the broader narrative: The moon admired her reflection in the sea, and so she . . . A god once entered the wrong vessel by mistake, and he . . . Once upon a time when the world was young . . .

All the characters tell stories to one another. When Liyana walks into the enemy camp and demands to be taken before the emperor? Yep, she opens by telling him a story. This works beautifully.

I liked Liyana, who might have suffered from doubts and fears, but was also decisive and practical — qualities I love in a character. I liked how all the other vessels were annoying to start with, but wound up as people you could root for. I liked the interplay between Liyana and her goddess, Bayla. I liked the emperor, though he might have been a bit good to be true. Oh, and I enjoyed the world, which was not an alternate anything — I sort of thought it was going to be an alternate Mideast kind of thing, but no. It was a purely secondary-world desert setting. I loved the sand wolves!

In fact, I really enjoyed the whole thing, and though this wasn’t my favorite book of the year, I will be keeping an eye out for Durst’s other books. I would say that to me it seemed more MG than YA, so I would suggest approaching it as MG or young YA. That might put your expectations in line with this story and tend to let you enjoy it more. There is plenty to enjoy.

If you’ve read it, I’m curious: do you also feel this was on the young side for YA? What did you think overall?

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4 Comments Recent Reading: Still whittling down the physical TBR pile

  1. Craig

    I got the Kindle sample of THE GLASS SENTENCE when you mentioned it before, but it just looked sort of meh. Which sounds all too accurate; oh well.

  2. Cheryl L

    I also purchased THE GLASS SENTENCE and was badly disappointed. I didn’t even finish it. It really lost me when we got to the memory maps. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief sufficiently, and the characters just didn’t come alive for me.

  3. Maureen E

    I loved Vessel (my favorite of Durst’s books so far–she’s kind of a mixed writer for me) and didn’t notice it reading particularly young. That is, it seems pretty squarely YA and while it’s not edgy, it also seems like one that has a pretty broad appeal for that range.

  4. Rachel

    I also tried a sample first and thought, well, probably not that great. But I had a free book from the SFBC so I picked it up anyway, because I was interested in the worldbuilding. And then the worldbuilding was disappointing, and nothing else was great, and . . . meh. I’ve given it away.

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