Titan Books, 459pp standard paperback, £7.99 cover price
99p on Kindle (Dec 2015)
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
I should probably confess that I haven’t read the first volume of this trilogy, but it didn’t require too much effort to work out what was going on: in the first book Cayden Silversun dreamed of putting together a magical theatre troupe to tour the country, and upon finding a talented young elf called Mieka to complete the troupe, together the motley collection of gifted performers do the business, with a sprinkling of magic just to make sure everything goes with a tidy bang, so to speak. All is happy and fabulous, darling… etc. etc. probably with some added characterisation somewhere along the line, I suspect.
That said, given the multitude of story options that present themselves when dealing with any travelling theatre company, you would probably be right in thinking this ought to be quite an exciting ride, especially through a marvellous fantasy world, and moreso given the central character, Cayden, suffers from “elsewhens”: a bizarre form of dream which basically means he gets visions of the future that trouble and vex him deeply.
And “vexed” is a good word, because — with apologies to the author — this single word goes a long way to describing how I felt throughout most of this frankly turgid read. I understand that this should be the second part of a trilogy and possibly designed to set up various climactic events for the third epic finale, but what’s herein barely scratches the surface of a novelette never mind the second part of a big fat fantasy, and it left me cold. Very little happens at all. No, really… Cayden and Mieka seem to argue a lot, they indulge in a bit of drug-taking both together and apart (the Glass Thorns of the title), and the troupe get caught up in some form of bizarre performance politics which sends them touring various aristocratic circles. End of story. Oh, I think Cayden falls in love somewhere along the way too, but even this seemed to get brushed to one side and squirreled under a bland-coloured carpet, along with any efforts to bring life to the rest of the magical troupe.
To quote from the book: “It’s one purpose of Art to cause a reaction. The Artist has a purpose in creating, and one of those purposes is to bring about a reaction in the audience … there are other objectives, and the most important … is to have people think about what they’ve just experienced.”
My own thoughts didn’t even get as far as “Meh”: I was more concerned with what I’d be making for tea that evening.
To quote Mieka: “It was the emotion. To make fifty or five hundred people laugh, weep, flinch in terror, cry out with joy—the plot wasn’t the impetus for the feelings, it was the other way round. The emotions had to be real for the story to work.”
My emotions were real enough: a sense of disappointment and missed opportunity. Sorry.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society (BFS) website here