Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Girl with Glass Feet, Ali Shaw

The Girl With Glass FeetThat winter there were reports in the newspaper of an iceberg the shape of a galleon floating in creaking majesty past St. Hauda's Land's cliffs, of a snuffling hog leading lost hill walkers out of the crags beneath Lomdendol Tor, of a dumb-founded ornithologist counting five albino crows in a flock of two hundred. 

"Strange things are happening on the remote and snowbound archipelago of St. Hauda’s Land. Magical winged creatures flit around the icy bogland, albino animals hide themselves in the snow-glazed woods, and Ida Maclaird is slowly turning into glass. Ida is an outsider in these parts who has only visited the islands once before. Yet during that one fateful visit the glass transformation began to take hold, and now she has returned in search of a cure. Midas Crook is a young loner who has lived on the islands his entire life. When he meets Ida, something about her sad, defiant spirit pierces his emotional defenses. As Midas helps Ida come to terms with her affliction, she gradually unpicks the knots of his heart. Love must be paid in precious hours and, as the glass encroaches, time is slipping away fast. Will they find a way to stave off the spread of the glass?"

As I mentioned in my Cover Love post, this book wasn't as great as the cover. But I did really enjoy it. The writing, although not brilliant, was fine, and I absolutely loved the story idea (see the above summary). The strange St. Hauda's Land was well portrayed. Shrouded in mystery, tourists who visit seldom break the surface and see the real place - all except Ida, due to a strange encounter. The idea of one's feet turning to glass is really chilling. 

The Girl with Glass Feet was simply gorgeous, in more ways than one. There was mystery and romance, and there were strange creatures. Like The Night Circus, it's a combination of all the most delicious elements in fantasy. It certainly wasn't as good as The Night Circus in its execution, but the idea was just as amazing.

I liked the two main characters, I loved the story, and I loved the world. The Girl with Glass Feet really was an enchanting novel. It was just the writing that sadly wasn't as good as it could have been. There were also perhaps too many dark pasts in the book; all of the characters seem to have deep, dark secrets that they're struggling to come to terms with, and sometimes it was just too much. There were also way too many flashbacks, and they sometimes were seemingly unconnected to what the person was doing at the time. The characters would just randomly remember something relevant to the story. There were so many flashbacks, and they started to get really, really annoying as the book went on. 

Still, I really enjoyed The Girl with Glass Feet in spite of my high expectations. Often when I'm really excited about a book it falls flat; it did a little bit in this case, but not too much. The book wasn't great, but it was certainly very good. The descriptions were pretty good, and the story itself, as I said, was brilliantly conceived. 

The Girl with Glass Feet was such a strange mix of dark fantasy and realism. It is set in the real world (although I think St. Hauda's Land is fictional), and the characters have real issues like abusive parents, but of course, there are so many fantastical creatures: ones which turn everything they gaze at white, moth-winged bulls, and the slow, inexorable glass which is creeping up Ida's feet. 

I loved the characters (although Midas annoyed me at times) and their relationships and the world, which is "crafted with elegance and swept by passionate magic and the yearning for connection", it is a "lovely fable" and it is a "rare pleasure", as Katherine Dunn puts it. Publishers' Weekly also said that "Shaw's novel flows gracefully and is wonderfully dreamlike, with the danger of the islands matched by the characters' dark pasts." It's a magic-tinged debut in the great tradition of European fairy tales, and it's definitely worth reading, as the story is beautiful. Goodreads recommended it to me based on the fact that I loved The Night Circus, and I must say, their recommendations are in general pretty great. 

287 pages. 

Rating: ****

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