Monday, October 2, 2017

Review: The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente

by Catherynne M. Valente
Margaret K. McElderry Books
(Simon & Schuster)
Middle Grade Fantasy
Ages 10 and up
544 pages

Charlotte and Emily must enter a fantasy world that they invented in order to rescue their siblings in this adventurous and fiercely intelligent novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Inside a small Yorkshire parsonage, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë have invented a game called Glass Town, where their toy soldiers fight Napoleon and no one dies. This make-believe land helps the four escape from a harsh reality: Charlotte and Emily are being sent away to a dangerous boarding school, a school they might not return from. But on this Beastliest Day, the day Anne and Branwell walk their sisters to the train station, something incredible happens: the train whisks them all away to a real Glass Town, and the children trade the moors for a wonderland all their own.

This is their Glass Town, exactly like they envisioned it…almost. They certainly never gave Napoleon a fire-breathing porcelain rooster instead of a horse. And their soldiers can die; wars are fought over the potion that raises the dead, a potion Anne would very much like to bring back to England. But when Anne and Branwell are kidnapped, Charlotte and Emily must find a way to save their siblings. Can two English girls stand against Napoleon’s armies, especially now that he has a new weapon from the real world? And if he escapes Glass Town, will England ever be safe again?

Together the Brontë siblings must battle with a world of their own creation if they are to make it back to England alive in this magical celebration of authorship, creativity, and classic literature from award-winning author Catherynne M. Valente.


This book reminds of a candy store—the atmosphere is a sheer delight and every turn offers an unexpected treat.

The Brontë siblings enjoy their days imagining all sorts of adventures with their toy soldiers, but they known that it will all end when the Beastliest Day arrives. On that day, Charlotte and Emily must return to the boarding school—one full of all sorts of torments and danger. When they arrive for their carriage too early, the siblings instead discover something amazing and soon find themselves swept away into an imaginative adventure and the ever exciting place named Glass Town.

The story is a celebration of imagination and centers around the Brontë siblings' writings about the Glass Town. But by no means does the reader have to have any knowledge of these writings or the siblings. However, there are lovely nods to the siblings, which are sure to make Brontë fans' hearts beat faster.

Adventure, fun and fantasy fills every page. Imagination flows without bounds, allowing the strangest characters to come to life and the most obscure situations to unfold. From one adventure to the next, this is a book packed full of goodness. It's never clear what the Brontë children will face next, nor what course of action will be the best for them to overcome their difficulties. This vibrant ride into fantasy is accompanied with masterfully placed descriptions and metaphors, which are simply a treat to read and enjoy.

The Brontë siblings must not only face what the Glass Town throws at them, but their real life fears, emotions and dreams are peppered in as well. The first chapters are spent on getting to know the children and their situation well, and these original fears and traits spin along with the rest of the adventure to give it a lovely depth without every feeling preachy. 

At over 500 pages, this is a tale younger, reluctant readers ages 10 an up might shy away from. While diving into the book is a sheer, literary delight, readers who enjoy a little more action and faster pace will feel left behind and only certain readers in the intended age group will have the patience to appreciate all the gems this book offers. Older readers, who will thoroughly enjoy the artistic quality of the writing, will not find a deep plot, but be flown away into a more childlike world—something which will not appeal to every literary friend. This mixture makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact audience to recommend this read to. Still, for the right person, it's a magical tale to get lost in.

And here she is. . .

Catherynne M. Valente is a New York Times bestselling author of  fantasy and science fiction novels, short stories, and a poetry. She has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and world fantasy awards, and has won the Locus an Andre Norton award. She lives on a small island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, one enormous cat, a less enormous cat, six chickens, a red accordion, an uncompleted master's degree, a roomful of yarn, a spinning wheel with ulterior motives, a cupboard of jam and pickles, a bookshelf full of folktales, an industrial torch, and an Oxford English Dictionary.

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