Nag’s End is a town that is used to disappointment and hard times. Nag’s Enders also know to stay away from the woods after dark lest the dark creatures–the ones that stayed behind when the good fairies left–eat them up. The town is warded to keep evil out. And as long as people stay out of the woods, it seems safe enough.
But not everyone knows to stay out of the woods.
After years of peaceful living, five soldiers ride through town in a flurry of activity only to disappear. Days later they’re found dead in the woods.
The town elders say it must be wolves. Tom and Jude Parstle don’t believe them. Neither does Tom’s best friend Rowan Rose despite what her pragmatic father might think.
It’s been years since anything unnatural happened in Nag’s End or the surrounding forest. But between the strange deaths and the arrival of Fiona Eira–a preternaturally beautiful girl with her own secrets–it seems change is coming to Nag’s End. As Tom, Jude and Rowan delve deeper into the mystery surrounding these strange deaths none of them are sure who will survive in The Glass Casket (2014) by McCormick Templeman.
The Glass Casket is a strange blend of fantasy with a hint of folklore and a horror suspense story. Five brutally murdered bodies are found within the first few pages but then the story shifts abruptly to an entirely too contrived (not to mention instantaneous) romance only to shift again to a bit of a mystery.
Templeman admirably juggles all of these tropes and plot devices in chapters with titles referring back the Major Arcana cards from a Tarot deck. Despite all of these intriguing elements, The Glass Casket never feels cohesive.
Broken into four parts and further subdivided into chapters, the story is chopped up even more with the story alternating between third person narrations following Tom, Rowan, Jude and Fiona. While this offers an opportunity to see the story from all side the ultimate result is a disjointed, jumpy story. (Not to mention a story that is annoyingly dissimilar from the plot suggested by the book’s jacket copy.)
Unfortunately, Templeman’s strength in world-building only highlights how lacking her characters are in basic development. Tom not only falls in love literally at first sight but also into a grand love that will mark him as forever changed. Jude, meanwhile, behaves like a young boy demonstrating his affection for a girl by being rude and generally treating her badly. Finally Rowan, the heroine of the novel who barely features in the first seventy pages, is supposedly a clever, bookish scholar. Yet throughout the story she is painfully lacking in self-awareness and lashes out with childlike tantrums when upset.
In summary, The Glass Casket is largely beautifully written. Although it is lacking in strong characters, the backdrop of Nag’s End is vivid and extremely evocative. Even the plot, if you can get past the numerous shifts in perspective, is quite suspenseful and an ideal read for fans of horror stories or thrillers.
Possible Pairings: The War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katharine Howe, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, “The Stolen Child” by the Waterboys (hear it here)