She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.
Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods. Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.
Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.
The Glass Sentence plunges readers into a time and place they will not want to leave, and introduces them to a heroine and hero they will take to their hearts. It is a remarkable debut.
There is a lot to love about The Glass Sentence. First off, the setting is brilliant. Most fantasy/science fiction authors try to differentiate their world from others by inventing their own creatures, inhabitants, and landscape. Time travel is always included in a very straightforward manner with characters journeying into the past or future. Grove, however thought outside a box I’d never even thought existed. Why create a new world when you can just scramble up our own by taking a wonderful twist on both time travel and magic?
Then the world building is fantastic as well. All the necessary details are included and everything is dealt with in a logical and believable manner. It is quite interesting to read a book that takes place in an in between time – between the Great Disruption itself, and the complete discovery and understanding of the new world. There is a lot still unknown and most of the knowledge people have is merely supposition. As a reader, you are slowly brought up to speed and learn everything from history, to definitions of words in local dialects, to geography so you can learn about the world alongside the characters. It is evident that Grove spent a lot of time fleshing out her concept, and the result is a world that is hard to believe isn’t real.
If the world building had ended there, the book would still be wonderfully unique, but the world is taken even farther. There are also new ‘beings’, for lack of a better word, that live in this newly formed world that are quite unlike anything I’ve seen before in terms of how they look, what they do, the mythology surrounding them – everything about them is creative and new. And, there is magic in the form of maps- memory maps, that show you different aspects of people memories, depending on what material they were created on.
And if that isn’t enough, the novel discusses philosophical and ethical questions regarding both the state of the world, and humanity. It is really quite mature for a middle grade book in this sense, making it appeal to older readers as well. There are a lot of deep subjects that are touched upon through the course of the story. What I also noticed, is that everything in the story is interconnected; the plot, world and characters all have ideas and themes binding them together.
The characters are dimensional and lovable. There are too many to list, but each and every one is truly wonderful. The dynamics between them bring an emotional aspect to the story and bring into play the plot driving themes of trust and loyalty. There is the warm familial relationship between Shadrack and Sophia and Theo and Sophia’s suspicious friendship which are the heart of the story.
Sophia’s lack of an inner clock, that is to say, a sense of time, fascinated me. It is something we all take for granted – that generally speaking, time marches as it should. Yet we’ve all experienced how the clock speeds up or slows down all based on how much fun we’re having, and know those moments out of time, when something that takes the space of a second, stretches out in slow motion. It’s conceivable that since time is relative and arbitrary, someone could lose their sense of time even in our world. That to them, a second could feel like hours, and days pass in what to them is a minute. It’s interesting to think about.
The plot is paced perfectly and is filled with just the right amount of action. The central mystery unravels slowly to shocking conclusions. By the end, both the character’s view of the world and your own shifts as the characters uncover mysteries about the world they inhabit. Yet, with this increased understanding comes the overwhelming feeling that each time you solve one mystery, there discover dozens more you can’t yet solve. The next book cannot come out quickly enough.
Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you!