Sunday 13 April 2014

#CBR6 Book 30: "The Glass Casket" by McCormick Templeman

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Rowan Rose lives in the little village of Nag's End with her father. Like her father, an experienced scholar, Rowan enjoys assisting him with translations and is proud of her achievements. Five soldiers ride through the village on their way up the mountain, and some days later, are found horribly killed by the men of the village. In a journal left by one of the soldiers are the words: "It's starting.". The elders of Nag's End declare the deaths the result of an animal attack, but not everyone is convinced. Among them is Rowan's best friend, the innkeeper's son Tom. He's clearly affected by the dead men, and reluctant to tell her about what they found. He's also clearly smitten with the new girl in the village, the distractingly beautiful Fiona Eira, who Rowan's father has forbidden her to ever speak to. Rowan is sad to see her best friend drifting away from her, but also wants nothing more than for him to be happy.

Soon it's obvious that whatever killed the soldiers in the mountain was not a wild animal, and the death toll in the village keeps going up. Rowan keeps having vivid nightmares that seem connected with the lurking horror spreading in the village. Tom is acting more and more strangely and together with his brother Jude, Rowan tries to investigate the cause.

The Glass Casket contains influences from a number of fairy tales, and much of it feels like it could have been written by the Brothers Grimm. The atmosphere of the distant little village in the mountains of some central European Medieaval kingdom is superstitious and oppressive and it's clear that unorthodox thinking and progressive ideas are not particularly welcomed. Strangers are distrusted, as evidenced by the arrival of Fiona Eira and her step-parents. Decisions that go against the wishes of the elders are practically unheard of. A woman has little to no independence once she is married, she is her husband's helpmeet and aids him and his family. This is one of the reasons Rowan doesn't really want to get married, she loves her translation work and dreams of travelling to the capital, where her father once lived.

Rowan has known Tom all her life, and while she knows his mother would be delighted if they were to marry, she loves him only as a friend. His older brother Jude has always unnerved her. She is slow to accept his help, but once tragedy strikes in the village, Tom gets more and more distant. He seems to stay out in the woods all night and Rowan begins to fear that he is somehow connected with the tragic deaths that have struck the village. Her father has always kept himself and his daughter apart from a lot of the traditional beliefs of the other villagers, and as the increasingly more terrible events unfold, Rowan begins to discover that there are reasons for this.

This is not a perfect book, by any means, but it is a very creepy, at times surprisingly gory young adult book book. I thought the loyalty and affection between Tom and Rowan was great and I appreciated how Rowan wanted to break out of the more traditional feminine roles of her society, but not in a way that felt anachronistic or wrong for the time period the book is set in. There are so many different things that unnerved me about this book and I have to admit to staying up far too late into the night just to finish it. The various twists that are introduced towards the end of the book didn't all work that well, in my opinion, but on the whole this was a very satisfying and scary read that I suspect a lot of teen readers will adore.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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