Glassheart - Katharine Orton
It's my stop on the blogtour for this fab tale full of magic and menace set on the misty moors of Dartmoor - perfect reading material as the cold nights draw in and you want to curl up with a good read! I'm so thrilled to recommend this to you, and I promise I'm going to try really hard not to include any spoilers...
Following the story of war orphan Nona and her Polish war hero 'uncle' as they travel to replace stained-glass window in buildings damaged by the war, this is a real page-turner of a book, and kept me hooked from start to finish as Nona encountered the dark magic of 'the Soldier' and fought to save herself and others and escape from his clutches and the fulfilment of his dark prophecy. The 'Glass heart' of the title becomes a central element in the story as a precious fragment held onto by Nona becomes the desire of the Soldier who needs it to complete his own dark heart and achieve his intentions.
This story is a grreat adventure, full of mystery and with fantastic description and atmosphere- the misty, dark umbrafell, and the spooky woodland settings of many of the scenes really make you feel like you are there (and scared!) alongside the characters. But it was the characters in this book that really made it for me...
Nona is an amazing creation - a brave, courageous, but caring girl, facing fear head-on (though ackowledging it) and showing care, compassion and love for others around her. Even in her dealings with the evil 'Soldier', there is an awareness of his past and desire to try to understand what has caused him to become what he does - a powerful element of the story, and a lovely change to the simple 'good guy beats bad guy' narrative. I loved the 'doubling up' of the final scenes with him - after defeating him in a proper fantasy-novel style epic battle, there is a second meeting between Nona and the Soldier where she engages with him in a completely different (and heart-melting) way to resolve the situation. The evil rattlesticks are also one of the most scary character creations I've read about in recent times - skeletal forms intent on malice, unrelentingly advancing....I've got goosebumps even now, thinking about them!
Many of the characters in the story face personal challenges and demons...from Nona facing loss in the past and confronting the current challenges, to her Uncle Antoni who can't talk about the past. The magical characters too, face challenges: the impish, shape-changing Castor who is struggling to deal with what he has become and may have to remain, to the spirit sisters Serafin and Alesea struggling to accept their place and role in the battle that is to come - the fallibilty of all the characters was a very engaging element of this book for me, and made me desperate to read to the end to see what would become of all their journeys!
Themes of compassion (Nona's scenes with Will), courage (too many examples to list), loss and grief (Nona and the Soldier), acceptance (Castor of himself) and standing up for the right thing (nona's willingness to put her own wellbeing at risk to save others) are all addressed in this utterly brilliant tale - there are so many elements to it that just combined perfectly in my eyes to make this one of my favourite reads of the year.
Thanks to Walker books and Rebecca for the review copy of the book and my own beautiful glass heart!
Walker Books: https://www.walker.co.uk/Glassheart-9781406385236.aspx and @WalkerBooksUK
Katharine Orton: https://www.katharineorton.com/ and @KatharineOrton
Listen to a 'sneak peek' reading of the book here: https://youtu.be/M437WJv11QA
Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot) November 2020