Death hasn’t visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders’ bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.
Rowan’s village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan’s door once again.
Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.
**I do not own a copy of this book, it was one among many plucked from the library’s shelves a week (or so) ago. Also keep in mind that, as always, these are my opinions as this is my review, and it should be viewed as such.
Before anything else, I’d like to say that the first half or so of the book is very well-written. It’s in the same style as the above summary, and I am quite fond of it! I’m not certain what happened with the second half of the book, or if it’s perhaps only in my head, but the writing seems to have grown distinctly dull. I recall seeing glimpses of the more elegant writing throughout the second half, but it was sparse and, I must add, I missed it. I had to put The Glass Casket aside more than once during this time simply because the dullness was overwhelming. With the first part, I felt so much more engaged in the story. I had little trouble envisioning this world, these people that Templeman has written into being. With the second part, it felt like I was slipping from their world more and more, faster and faster with each page. I never considered leaving it unfinished, as I was already far too interested and I had to finish, but I wonder if it might be enough to throw others off. Considering I’ll return to this time and time again in my review, it’s certainly worth noting that I feel the idea of ‘Show, don’t tell’ is at least taken into account with the first half, but that seems to be tossed aside for the second part. I think I’ve made my view on the writing style clear, so onto other matters!
I should also mention that the book is quite slow at the beginning. Perhaps too slow for some, but it’s what I would generally consider a nice pace…when it serves a purpose. I don’t really have a preference as to whether that space is used for character-, world-, and/or relationship-building, I simply hate to see it wasted! The Glass Casket displays adequate relationship-building, and poor character- and world-building. Let’s start with the relationships.
Honestly, I’m borderline about calling the relationship-building adequate. Yes, we’re told of how close Rowan is with her father, Emily, and Tom. Yes, Rowan’s hatred of Jude (and the progression from that) is evident in Templeman’s writing. There are more relationships explored, of course, but I’m going to use these as examples. Please note how I stated ‘…we’re told…’, and ‘…in Templeman’s writing…’. Remember how I said I’d come back to ‘Show, don’t tell’ numerous times throughout my review? Well, here’s one! We’re hardly shown of Rowan’s relationship with her father, but instead told that they’re close. Told that they love each other very much. Told that they often work on translations together. We’re also told that Rowan and Jude hate each other. We’re shown, to some extent, how Jude’s relationship with her grows as their situation pushes them closer together, how his feelings aren’t what he’d have us (and Rowan) believe, but even then it all seems so very shallow and one-dimensional because things aren’t laid out in a believable way. (Minor spoiler ahead!!) When Jude confesses his true feelings to Rowan, I honestly read that three times but I still couldn’t believe it. Not that I doubt Jude, but instead I simply only recall being told of the supposed chemistry between. I have no reason to believe or doubt him! I can certainly see how they would have chemistry, yes, and I honestly want to get behind the pairing! But I don’t think Templeman gave us enough to make it real. I could support it, definitely, but I need good reason to. The possibility of chemistry is there, but it’s yet to be truly tapped into.
Tom and Rowan… Templeman certainly did a better job building and providing proof of their relationship! I still don’t fully feel the ‘best friend’ vibe they supposedly have, but I am at least convinced that they’re friends, and they want the best for each other. I was extremely glad to see the flashback to years prior where they played in the waters, brief though the recollection was. It’s by no means a great display of ‘show, don’t tell’, but it doesn’t fall completely flat! It’s obvious these two love and care for each other, and that’s a step in the right direction!
The one relationship I feel has a great amount of substance and backing to it is that between Emily and Rowan. We’re given, shown many times of the ways Rowan helps Emily around the house, of the ways they care for each other…it’s evident even in their words, and I absolutely love their relationship. Emily is certainly a form of support for Rowan, but Rowan is by no means wholly reliant on her. (Spoiler warning!!) Sad to say, though, that the only time I had even a sense of Rowan’s grief over Emily’s murder was during her confrontation with Merrilee. At least it’s something, though I would have liked more than one instance as proof of her mourning. Mind you, there were other attempts to prove this, but they were —- you guessed it —- only told of. Briefly, at that.
Well, it’s really the same thing here. We’re told how Tom likes to help the elderly, how Rowan’s father feels about the idea of witches and magic and the like, how Rowan feels a strange connection to Fiona, etc., but I never saw anything to actually back these things up. What I do remember seeing, however, is proof that Rowan is indeed passionate about her translations and someday visiting the City. I remember how Tom and Fiona affected each other from first glance onward, how the coin’s power and hold over all those within range was so evident… I recall how Rowan avoided the witches for the longest time, how she at least tried to hold scorn for them, though it wasn’t exactly easy to pick up on. I’ve been going on and on about showing and not telling, and I think it’s only fair that I give credit where credit is due for the times I can easily recall being shown what was happening. (Minor spoiler warning!!) At the very end, Rowan mentioned how Tom seemed to have aged by years in a few short months, how different he seems, and how she doubts he’ll ever be who he was. This is definitely one thing I’d have loved to see — perhaps a description of how his eyes have changed, if applicable. Or how lines now seem permanently etched into his face, etc. Whatever Templeman saw, I want to see that too.
(Spoiler warning!!) At the end, with Jude and Rowan heading off to the city together, I still couldn’t get behind the idea of them being a couple. It’s like the idea was just set before us, possible chemistry there but untapped, and we were told to accept it. That’s exactly what it felt like. And we don’t really get any sense of how they’ve changed after what they’ve gone through; I can’t imagine that they’re truly the exact same people they were! All I know is that Rowan mourns her father every day, but that was just one line…
I’m a record on repeat at this point, aren’t I? We’re given a bit of information about the world in which The Glass Casket takes place, such as an idea of what the terrain and the woods are like, the goddess that is worshipped by the villagers, how women are viewed and treated (we actually get a few actual examples of this!), how they handle those who’ve passed on, and so forth. Still, nothing ever felt in-depth. I felt like I was constantly flickering in and out of a rather shallow and incomplete world. I want to know more about this world! We can’t even be sure if it’s set in some parallel part of our own world or a completely different universe, and that’s one thing I was wondering throughout the book. Where exactly is Nag’s End?
A few things I didn’t address above:
The nods to fairy tales did not go unnoticed! I appreciate them quite a lot, actually.
The title…the casket itself was briefly mentioned a few times, and certainly not enough that I’d call the title fitting. It’s not a main focus of the tale by any means.
I mentioned that the beginning is slow… Well, the second half picks up good speed, then just…snowballs. Not in a good way. From the climax to the very end, it’s incredibly rushed in my opinion. Pacing from beginning to end, of suspense…all of that could’ve used more consideration.
I only recall seeing one typo —- a missing opening quotation mark. I forgot to mark the page number down, but that’s the only thing I saw!
I didn’t see the big revelation coming. Admittedly, there wasn’t much to go off of. I’m not saying it should have been obvious, only that I simply wasn’t surprised. I only found myself thinking, ‘Oh. That’s cool, I guess.’ I can’t say that, at that point, I really cared who the bad guy was. Even once the truth was out, there wasn’t much information given…just another instance of ‘This is how it is. Accept it.’
Okay…I should wrap this up! Overall, I think The Glass Casket has good potential, but it needs work. A lot of work, honestly. I want to know more about this world, about these people…I want to see them grow as they go through such trials…I want to see how the relationships change and merge with time and pressure. The writing style is horridly inconsistent, but I really like what I saw in the first half of the book.
I think with more time and editing, planning, and overall consideration, this could be a much stronger and better book.
As is, I rate The Glass Casket at 2.5 stars.