I picked this book up from Book Passions in Belconnen, a cheap remainder, as a pretty blue, large, novel that had been catching my eye intermittently since it had been published. It has sat at the bottom of a shelf, beside the Big Book of Tell Me Why (Perhaps most misinformative book I have ever been given, but so amusingly wrong that I keep it anyway) for a year since I bought it.
In my post-uni daze, I decided that a cup of tea and an attempt at it would be a good way to waste an afternoon. I took some time to warm to Miss Temple, who appears initially as very shallow and simple, but by the third page I was thoroughly invested in the mysteries of the book.
It eventually follows a very British gaslight adventure story following a trail of corpses. Involving hired mercenaries, German doctors, and a very confusing conspiracy of nobles, the book is thoroughly entertaining and gripping. Corsetry, gratuitous gore, and a scene with afternoon tea and scones bordering on the obscene, add a sumptuous and at times very British flavour to the energy and intrigue.
Sadly, there were some flaws, which did not spoil the experience but did seem quite obvious on leaving the characters after the conclusion. As three characters are the focus, the initial storytelling and switch between narratives gives a fuller and more complex experience of the situation. However in the final climactic scenes, with all characters in a large house and at times interacting, the protracted re-hashing of events is a little frustrating. It makes the novel feel in prose as thick and stodgy as it looks on the shelf, and as if the suspended tension and series of minor twists and revelations reminded me far more of the deconstruction after a freeform role-playing session than a well-edited novel.
The lack of any satisfying conclusion to the story leaves the relationships between the characters indescribable and frustrated myself as a reader. Although I would love to see another story involving Miss Temple, Cardinal Chang, and the German Doctor, I like to have more than a paragraph of an ending. There is hardly any space to reconcile the major conflict, and less to appreciate the situation that the characters find themselves in finally.
I am entirely sympathetic with Dahlquist, who after undertaking such a large project possibly was tired of the characters and their internal monologues, but novels are not published for authors, in the main part. They are published to be read, and any author who seems to be serving themselves or their own interest more than their audience irritates me slightly.
All that said, I’d much rather re-read The Glass Books than pick up a David Eddings novel, and I have been plugging this one to most of my friends. I’d definitely say that it is one of the most rewarding and memorable books I have read this year.