The Story: Storm Glass, written by Maria Snyder, is the first in the Glass series, which is told in first-person by the chief protagonist, Opal Cowen. Opal is a master glass maker in and of herself but she’s also a magician in training (though the magic in the novel is a little more subtle and doesn’t involve spells, charms, or wand-waving). Opal, it seems, has a knack for trapping magic in her glass creations and eventually finds her abilities extend far more than simply making glass trinkets look pretty. All of that becomes an important (though slightly underplayed) crux of the story, so for the sake of releasing spoilers, I won’t reveal what it is.
At first, I thought Storm Glass was going to be a quest novel since it starts out with Opal being summoned to accompany fellow master magician, Zitora. It turns out that in the world of Ixia, the Stormdancers clan are in need of a master glass maker to restore their orbs. Stormdancers harness and trap a storm’s power in an orb, so when an orb breaks, the magician connected to it dies. Opal helps them and it seems like the story ends there. But the novel picks up the pace and introduces new situations where Opal must test her mettle.
Character-wise, Opal is interesting but not overly-memorable. She’s a good character and easily likable but lacked a “wow-factor” for me. True, her ability to make glass is strongly demonstrated without being overstated, and the fact Opal knows what her powers are and the way she uses them shows she’s a smart female lead. The supporting cast is equally good and there didn’t seem to be any stock characters. Likewise, it’s clear Snyder did her homework when it came to glass making, and I appreciated her level of detail since it made that aspect of the story very believable.
That being said, my chief compliant with the novel is that Opal seems to let herself get captured often. Evidently, her character was introduced in another series (also by Snyder), so some references to that come into play here. Since this was the first book I ever read by Snyder, I was a little lost in those portions but that’s not the author’s fault.
Going back to Opal, while she’s not a damsel in distress, I dislike characters who seem to be imprisoned, ensnared, kidnapped, or duped every few chapters. Granted, all of these incidents do tie into the overall narrative but it got a little repetitive in the duration of the read, which is rather lengthy (over 480 pages long).
Likewise, I wished the Stormdancers’ magic could have been expanded. Judging by the blurb on the back cover, I assumed the novel was going to spend most of its time exploring the Stormdancers’ perils. Instead, they appear in the early chapters and occasionally throughout but not with the frequency I hoped for. The concept of trapping a storm’s power in glass and being magically bound to it was an interesting concept, and when it shows up, it’s executed well. I just wanted a little more in terms of that instead of Opal getting captured by a ragtag bunch and being forced to use her magic while making glass for them.
The world-building and characters are, for the most part, solid and interesting and it does really anything an initial first book should do when it comes to fantasy series. If Opal’s magic gets expanded upon and explored in subsequent volumes, then I just might check them out. And that’s saying a lot because if the first book tanks for me, I don’t even bother with the other novels. Thankfully, Storm Glass was good enough (not great but at least avoids the curse of mediocrity) to give me some encouragement.
Language – Essentially none. If there was any language, it occurred so infrequently, it was overlooked.
Violence – There are tense, sometimes violent, moments but they are not graphic or gory and tend to fall more towards the menacing end of the danger spectrum. Opal is also held against her will and threatened at times but she is never tortured nor abused.
Sexual Material – Essentially none. There is sexual tension between Opal and a few male characters but only one scene implies she was intimate with anyone. This incident is slightly open to interpretation since it isn’t elaborated upon nor described in any detail regarding the exact nature of the encounter (meaning it might not have been sexual at all).
Storm Glass is an entertaining fantasy novel that mixes magic with the real-life art of glass making and science of weather. It sounds like a strange mix but Snyder pulls it off. While the main character’s repetitive cycle of captures does wear a bit thin at times, it is a minor complaint, making Storm Glass a good fantasy romp.