Floating cities? Skyships? Etiquette lessons? Storm Glass intrigued me as soon as I saw the description. Sadly, I just couldn’t click with any of the characters, and I found the plot a little lacking…
Book: Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided by NetGalley for fair review.
The concepts in Storm Glass are pretty cool, with floating estates that hover over the slum-city on the ground. The wealthy live in the sky, with a sort of steampunk Regency setting, while the poor live on the ground, in a generic fantasy city. Cettie, one of our protagonists, is rescued from this life by enigmatic nobleman Fitzroy, who takes her to live on his estate in the sky – her story follows how she adjusts to this life. Our other protagonist is Sera, a princess who hates being told what to do. Now, I have no problem with trope-y characters as long as they are used to do something original, but these two never seemed to break out of their roles as ‘fish-out-of-water’ and ‘doesn’t-understand-her-role-as-princess’. Beyond that, I could not explain the plot to you. There wasn’t really any overarching thread of plot – just these two girls going about their business.
The main thing that slightly bugged me about this story was that it couldn’t seem to decide if it was YA or MG, and therefore it missed the mark on both. The protagonists are young girls, both around the age of 12, but Sera’s story in particular felt more like she was meant to be a wilful 16. I found that the majority of the characters were a little too flat to connect with, from the almost painfully heroic Fitzroy, to the moustache-twirlingly evil Mrs Pullman. Fitzroy was like The Perfect Dad™, and Mrs Pullman started coming after Cettie the second she stepped into the building. It’s hard to build tension when you have such over-the-top good and evil.
I also felt as though many things were under-explained in terms of the world-building. Cettie, as an outsider to floating society, would have been the perfect reader conduit to explain the workings of the world. Why are there cities in the sky? How do they stay up? How did this society develop? How do the sky ships work? And yet every single question she asks is hand-waved away with: ‘The Mysteries’. Yep, that’s right, the magic system is called ‘The Mysteries’ and no, we are not allowed to know what they are. Presumably at least one of Cettie or Sera will be introduced to them in later books, but for now, the reader is left utterly in the dark with them. It’s like the opposite of info-dumping.
This was quite frustrating when it came to the ghosts, which don’t appear to be part of the Mysteries. Cettie attracts ghosts. But how and why is not explained, and nor is whether these are dead-people ghosts or malevolent-spirit ghosts. Mrs Pullman can control them, but how? Honestly, this book raised more questions than it answered, but in a frustrating way that made me think that it was an omission, rather than intentional. Another slightly weird thing was the heavy focus on debt as a plot-point. This was like a fable about not getting into debt. If you get into debt, your floating estate starts to sink. Again, how? If this had been explained further (perhaps it’s a system like in Mun Mun?), then this could have been very engaging. But as it stands, it kind of just comes off as moralising.
I really wanted to like this. In a way, if it were reworked to have less discussion of debt and politics, it could be quite engaging as an MG flight-of-fancy, but as it stands, it has none of the charm it needs to capture the attention of a younger audience. Older audiences I think will be disappointed, as I was, with the lack of nuance and character development. I think that there will be people who love it for the setting – I’m just not one of them. Only two cats from me.