Book Review: Storm Glass
The Harbinger series #1
By Jeff Wheeler
Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.
Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.
Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.
Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.
But both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn both their worlds. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I received an ARC for Storm Glass from NetGalley, and this is my honest review.
Not that authors generally have much control over their jacket covers, but this art is amazing! I love it! After reading Storm Glass, I love it even more since it could be symbolic of the happenings within the story.
At this point, I feel fairly certain I will thoroughly enjoy books written by Jeff Wheeler. He develops creative worlds and characters that are thoroughly delightful, or despicable, depending on the type required. Fantasy continues to be one of my favorite genres because of the flexibility and the ability to explore social problems in a different environment. Magic is simply a bonus.
In Storm Glass, we are transported to a Regency styled world, where the rules of social class are rigid and absolute. Wheeler creates a nice play between the contrast of the extremes in society that could be seen as a parallel to our own world. The discussions on debt, and how financial concerns could quickly become the downfall of a family – and their floating manor – make it feel real. Anyone with sense can see how debt strangles families today.
In Storm Glass we are introduced to some of the dregs of society. A foster mother has collected a swarm of children to be eligible for money from the government. She, in turn, drinks up the money leaving the children destitute. Two of the older children take a strong role in caring for the younger children by stealing food, protecting and comforting when there is nothing else to be done.
The Mysteries are a controlling force within society. The magic of the Mysteries bleeds into the realm of science. Only the privileged will be educated in the Mysteries, because it’s education that could change the opportunities afforded the poor. The four major schools are the Mysteries of War, the Mysteries of Wind, the Mysteries of Law and the Mysteries of Thought. Cettie appears to be sensitive to the Mysteries, but it has not yet been revealed how her upcoming education will help her bloom.
Cettie Pratt, the mother-figure for the orphans, has a secret. A ghost comes to haunt her, with the intent to harm. With the little ones, the protection becomes mutual – she shelters them and their innocence acts as a barrier the ghost cannot cross. When one of the wealthy, from the skies above, enters the home and witnesses the conditions he uses the Mysteries to banish the ghost. Cettie asks to be taken away – without understanding the ramifications. This powerful man, Vice Admiral Fitzroy, extends himself and brings Cettie to his home where she finds a mixed reception. His wife and youngest are loving to the poor child, but others see her as a threat.
Cettie, is filled with doubts about her worth. She is complex because she is ashamed of her background, but doesn’t feel compelled to mimic high society and fail in the undertaking. Ms. Pullman, one of the most despicable characters I’ve met in quite awhile, plucks expertly at the loose threads of Cettie’s feelings – shredding any confidence the girl might have found in her new home. Though she is twelve, Cettie, has grown up quickly in a world that thrust responsibility on her and so se evaluates the world through the lens of her experience. I enjoyed seeing how she could be mature, and still cowed by Ms. Pullman. (Cettie reminds me of Sara Crewe from A Little Princess, one of my favorite plucky girls in literature.) Ultimately, Cettie is a hero because she wants to stand up for the down-trodden and create a better world. It will be fascinating to see how she manages to work through her lofty goals.
Sera Fitzempress, lives an isolated life. She has been kept from mingling with society at large, and specifically children her own age. Despite her upbringing, she is fierce, loyal, smart and driven. Her governess, Hugilde – and only companion, easily becomes exasperated with the child but is also the only adult who truly loves her. As more political power comes within grasp of her father, he becomes more controlling. Her mother appears to be powerless, but has secrets of her own. The bickering parents could have ruined Sera, but instead she wants to seek social justice and change the world she lives in. She, however, may truly gain the power to change the world. Associating only with adults is another way for a young person to mature beyond her years. Sera has had to negotiate the relationship with her parents, knows her value is seen – in part – by who she weds for political advantage and her friendship with Hugilde. It feels realistic that Sera would be another mature young woman because of her circumstances.
Wheeler likes to interconnect his stories, and there is a thread to connect Storm Glass to Muirwood, but it reads well without needing to have read his previous books.
I was thoroughly entertained and can hardly wait to read more about the Mysteries, ghosts and two girls from opposite sides of society in the Harbinger series.
I highly recommend this series and other books by Jeff Wheeler. He keeps his fiction clean, fast paced and intriguing. Jeff Wheeler is one of the must read contemporary authors of fantasy.
If you have enjoyed Wheeler as an author I would highly recommend reading A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I am confident that you will love their books.
Also, check out the e-zine : Deep Magic