Rating: 4 of 5
An entertaining fairytale-inspired dark fantasy!
The Glass Casket surprised me – I did not expect to discover (for the most part) such a refreshingly unique story. Sure it’s based on a mashup of age-old fairytales, along with tried-and-true fantasy elements, but it was original in its own way. Familiar yet different, like catching up with a lifelong friend who’d been away for years and had transformed into someone new.
I loved the story’s pace: a slow build to a brutal climax. The atmosphere was also genuinely creepy: isolated in winter, up against an unknown assailant, an underlying layer of deceit and distrust. The mystery was so well written I was never 100% sure where the story was going or who / what would be the “bad guy.” Sure I had a list of suspects, but I was always just shy of feeling totally confident with my pick for whodunnit. And I loved that no one was safe, including Rowan.
While other reviewers tend to point out Templeman’s (obvious) influence – Snow White and Rose Red – there were several others, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, and those were the in-your-face references. Woven into the fabric of this story were numerous other tales and their elements – literate female characters, repeated mention of an egg, the Black Forest, wild beasts / wolf, fairies, witches, ancient demons, Hell, and on and on – but with SO many influences, the story was sometimes too broad. (I wonder what Templeman could do if she focused the world-building a bit more?) And like a traditional fairytale, the characters were quite simple. Had this one aspect of the story been changed, and the characters given more depth, I would have rated The Glass Casket 5 stars.
My only complaints would be about the romance – as is often the case with young adult books nowadays – and a young person refusing help from someone older and wiser. The romance seemed to dominate the middle of the story, which could’ve been filled with something deeper. And Rowan, described as “scholarly” and smart on more than one occasion, repeatedly ignored people who could actually help.
Recommended to diehard fairytale fans and open-minded dark fantasy readers.
Read more on the author’s official website.
(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)