Book Review: The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler
A review copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Children’s
Series: Book 3 of The Forbidden Library
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books (April 12, 2016)
Length: 368 pages
Middle Grade fiction really isn’t an age category I delve into all that often, but two years ago I discovered The Forbidden Library and never looked back. At the time, I was already a big fan of Django Wexler’s adult epic fantasy series The Shadow Campaigns, so I thought I would try more of his work even if I’m not the target audience. Now we find ourselves three books into the series, and I am completely hooked.
The Palace of Glass puts us right back on track, beginning with Alice’s newfound resolve to do something about her situation. For one thing, a terrible truth has been revealed to her; now she knows that “Uncle” Geryon, the master Reader who took her in, actually had a role in the disappearance of her father. Stricken with grief, Alice begins to plot her revenge.
But Geryon is a powerful Reader, and Alice is just an apprentice. To have any chance to succeed at all, Alice will need someone to teach her some new tricks. Enter the labyrinthine called Ending, the mysterious giant black cat that guards the estate’s forbidden library. Ending offers to tell Alice how to trap Geryon, but it involves a spell from a book rumored to be kept in the notorious Palace of Glass, a prison for dangerous magic.
When Geryon announces that he is leaving on a week-long trip, Alice decides to make her move, secretly traveling through a portal book to begin making her way to the Palace of Glass. However, her task may be more difficult that she first thought. Geryon’s sphere of influence is vast, and there’s no telling what would happen to all the magical creatures under his control, even if Alice does manage to take her master out of the picture.
After the wild ride that was The Mad Apprentice, which was a relatively self-contained adventure set in a twisty dark labyrinth, The Palace of Glass once again sees Alice back to doing what she does best—jumping through portal books, discovering new worlds, and meeting new races of magical beings. A lot happens in this book, as the plot surges ahead to take us through the molten tunnels of the fire sprites to the frozen kingdoms of the ice giants before taking us into the Palace of Glass, where our protagonist must face the challenges that await her. But that’s not all! The excitement continues to build until it reaches its peak at the end when Alice is forced to take a stand, leading to the book’s final epic showdown. There’s no coming back from some of the huge decisions she makes, and I’m thrilled at the overall climactic tone of this novel.
Plus, Alice gets to forge some new alliances along the way. First, she meets Flicker, a young flame sprite. Here, Wexler’s sheer imagination is on full display again as he comes up with creative ways to describe Flicker’s appearance and culture, such as using fire metaphors to explain the way the fire sprites procreate, or even likening a clearing of a throat to a the sound of flames crackling in the hearth. Then there’s Erdrodr, the ice giant girl who would prefer to draw rather than fight, much to the chagrin of her warrior mother. Alice, Flicker, and Erdrodr have some great moments in this book together, including the time where they find out that turtles are the world’s biggest jerks.
The Palace of Glass comes together in a great mix of humor and adventure, but there are some deeper, more sobering themes to it as well. Alice of course continues to grow as a character, asking the important questions about her powers and responsibilities as a Reader. Now that she knows Geryon can’t be trusted, she’s also starting to understand why Readers are feared by the magical portal community. After all, being able to bind all kinds of exotic creatures to your will and use their magical abilities might sound like a pretty cool idea in practice, but in order to gain the power of a creature, a Reader has to kill it or force it to submit.
Plus, have you ever wondered how some of the creatures—some of which are intelligent, sentient beings—got into their prison books in the first place? The answers revealed in this book are pretty unsettling, involving a cruel tribute system. For the first time, Alice’s eyes are opening to all of this, and she begins to truly think about the morality behind the things Readers do, which is a significant development for her character.
The author has said that The Forbidden Library will be a four-book series, and judging by the way The Palace of Glass ended, I’d say we’re in for some pretty big things in the fourth and final installment, which of course I’ll be reading. Looking forward to getting my hands on the sure to be epic conclusion, I really can’t wait to see how it all ends!