Boston, 1891: Nearly a century has passed since the Great Disruption remade the world and threw all of the continents into different Ages. While Boston and the rest of New Occident moves forward in the 1890s, other parts of the world reside in drastically different Ages including some from the near past, prehistory and others that are entirely unknown.
Thirteen-year-old Sophia Tims knows all about maps thanks to her uncle Shadrack Elli, one of the most renowned carologers in New Occident. With the borders closing any day and Sophia’s parents still missing after ten long years with no word, Shadrack and Sophia prepare to leave New Occident and mount a proper search expedition.
Unfortunately in midst of their preparations, Shadrack is kidnapped. With no idea how to find him beyond one small clue and a basic knowledge of what to expect in the Baldlands, Sophia sets off with an unlikely traveling companion and little else. As Sophia and Theo journey toward the Baldlands’ capital of Nochtland they will uncover shocking truths about the Great Disruption and find themselves at the center of a vast conspiracy that could change the entire world in The Glass Sentence (2014) by S. E. Grove.
The Glass Sentence is Grove’s first novel. It is also the start of the Mapmakers Trilogy.
Groves presents a rich fantasy with gorgeous world-building. Maps at the beginning of the novel introduce readers to Sophia’s world as well as the outlying regions. The story opens right in the middle of the action as New Occident’s borders are closed and never lets up.
The story expertly plays with readers’ ideas of history and causality imagining, among other paradoxes, a world where John Donne is known through his works before the Great Disruption as England has not yet reached (and may never reach) the time of his birth. These details lend a haunting quality to The Glass Sentence allowing readers with knowledge of the related world history to imagine what might have been.
However readers who lack the historical background (due to youth or lack of interest) will still find an engrossing fantasy here. Sophia and Theo travel across New Occident and into the wilds of the Baldlands where they encounter outlandish travel companions and chilling villains.
Chapter epigraphs from Shadrack’s published works as well as other sources further the world-building and explain key details of this alternate history to readers while a narrative structure reliant on clocks and time-keeping help keep readers grounded in the story.
With so many vivid and evocative details in the world-building and backstory, The Glass Sentence is decidedly lengthy at 493 pages. Although the arc of this novel is resolved in this story, the over-arching story of Sophia’s missing parents will likely span the rest of the trilogy. Readers who enjoy thick, intricate fantasies will undoubtedly find a new favorite in this promising start to a series with both middle grade and young adult appeal.
Possible Pairings: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi, Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld