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The Glasswrights' Master is the final book in the Glasswrights series by Mindy L. Klasky. I've read the four previous books and enjoyed them on various levels. Some were better than others, of course. My favorite in the series is probably the third book, with its unique land and culture and the solidity of its plot. All five book deal with the story of Ranita Glasswright, with her starting as an apprentice in the guild before it is destroyed. Rani attempts to continue her studies throughout the books, and attempts to rebuild the guild itself, to return it to its former glory in her homeland. Throughout the books, she has many people who aid her, and relationships grow and change over the course of her story, some for the better, others . . . not so much.





And that is what is most compelling about the series overall: the way that relationships change as the years pass and Rani and those she knows are faced with trials and decisions that will not only shape them, but their kingdom and world as well. Not all of those that meet Rani and start out as her friends end up on her side in the end; and not all of those that stand against her are her foes in the end. People react according to their own wants and needs, and those wants and needs change as the world changes around them.

Another interesting part of the series is that each book is set in a different kingdom in this world, centered around Morenia and its king, Hal. But in each of the last four books, we travel to a new kingdom, unique and different in its own way from all of the others. These differences kept the series interesting, as we learn about a new part of the world and how the people in that world live. We don't get an indepth view of each kingdom, but we get enough of its flavor to be interested and keep reading.

In this fifth book, we travel to the southern kingdom of Sarmonia, when Hal, Rani, and the king's closest advisors and friends retreat there when the kingdom of Morenia is attacked by the Briantans and the Liantines simultaneously, the attacks orchestrated by the Fellowship of Jair, a secret organization that has slowly been sowing seeds of dissension in every kingdom as they seek to gain power over all of the lands. In the beginning, Rani, Hal, and others were part of the group, hoping that its goals were noble and working toward those goals themselves. It became clear to the reader by the third book that the Fellowship wasn't as noble or magnanimous as it seemed, or at least that it had been corrupted by those seeking power not for the good of others, but for themselves.

In Sarmonia, Hal hopes to gain the kingdom's aid in reclaiming his lost throne, while protecting his newborn son and heir. But the Fellowship is close on his heels. The final confrontation between Hal and the Fellowship, between Rani and Crestman, plays out in the forests of Sarmonia . . . and around an herb-witch named Kella, shifting back to Morenia and the capital of Moren only in the last few chapters.

The final resolution is in one aspect unexpected . . . and on another level, expected. Astute readers will have "guessed" the outcome of the Royal Pilgrim plotline after reading the fourth book. How that comes about couldn't have been predicted though. In the longrun, all of the various plotlines are brought to a satisfactory resolution, and we leave the survivors in satisfactory places, where we've wanted them to be for awhile anyways. There were some unexpected plot turns in this novel, as there have been in most of the novels. Mindy L. Klasky is certainly willing to have horrible things happen to her characters--horrible, but realistic things. I had no major stumbling blocks in this fifth book (unlike the one I had at the very end of the fourth), and felt the plot was solid. A minor quibble is mostly a pet peeve of mine regarding the mini-insanity of King Hal, with the triple rhymes that plagued him. I couldn't stand them, exulted when they vanished (mostly) in book 2, but cringed when they returned in various degrees in the later books. They return here, in full force. But that was an extremely minor peeve of my own, easily read over.

Overall, the series and Rani's story was interesting. I'm glad I hunted down the books and read them, especially since these are not urban fantasy and not really epic fantasy either. The magic in the series is subtle, when it's there at all, so the fantasy is more about the world itself. I enjoyed the books. The third is still my favorite, but this fifth novel comes in a close second.
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The Glasswrights' Test is the fourth book in the Glasswrights series by Mindy L. Klasky. I've been steadily working my way through the series these last few months, with my limited reading time. This series is set in a medieval fantasy world--so castles, kings, guilds, etc--but the main focus in on Ranita Glasswright, her quest to restore the Glasswrights' Guild after her actions in the first book caused it to be destroyed, and her own personal quest to become a mastet glasswright herself, since the guild was destroyed when she was a mere apprentice.





I thought the first book was good, the second book not as much, but the third book rocked. I liked the new land and culture that was visited in that book, and how the plot focused more on the relationships between Rani and those around her, in particular the King of Morenia, Hal. This book once again has Rani traveling to a new land, Brianta, which is full of religious fervor, and not a few fanatics. She is ostensibly there to escort Princess Berylina (introduced in the third book as one of Hal's potential brides)--who has somehow been touched by the gods so that she can see, hear, smell, and taste them--but her own personal goal is to be tested as a master of the glasswright craft. When the guild was destroyed, those who managed to survive the purging fled to Brianta and set up a temporary guild in its holy city. The master of the new guild has invited Rani to come take the test. Unknown to Rani, the guild is being manipulated by the Fellowship, a secret society that Rani and Hal are both members of, but who have never really seen eye-to-eye with.

So, we once again have a new land to explore and unlike the second book, some good interpersonal relationships and personal problems to deal with. I liked how these played out while the group was in Brianta, with Rani coming face to face with a guild full of people who hate her and the stress that it places on her relationships with those around her. She is not only placed at odds with her lover, but also her friend, Mair. As the book progresses, these stresses are increased when the Fellowship begins making its moves on both her, Hal, and Mair. (I can't say anthing more without spoiling things.) At the same time, Berylina faces the religious powers in the city, who don't view her special relationship to the gods with as much welcome as she would have thought.

All of this tension comes to a spectacular and satisfying head toward the end of the novel, and I was all ready to give the book a solid 4 and a better review than the third book . . . but then Rani returns to Morenia in the last few chapters, to finish off the last of the main plot. And this is where things go bad. The confrontation with Hal that she has upon her return is great at first, but during the entire fight I kept saying to myself (OK, I was really yelling at Rani through the book) to just tell him what was happening! She'd been put in this horrible position, but if she trusted him as much as she claims (and as much as we've seen throughout all of the books), then she should have just told him the situation and had him help her come up with a solution, especially since it involved him. Instead, she says nothing and tries to solve it on her own for no real reason. Decisions made by characters like this annoy me. It's the equivalent of the author gagging the character in order to create a false sense of tension. Something like this happens in the third book with Berylina, but in that book I could let it pass since it wasn't as significant to the main plot. Here, the entire end of the main plot depends on Rani and Hal's actions here, so this one little thing destroyed the ending of the book for me, because it made the ending feel contrived.

Don't get me wrong though. My only real issue with the entire book was this one thing that happens within the last 50 pages of the novel. I loved everything that happened before this, and liked where the book leaves Rani and Hal and the others. I would recommend this book to those that have read the first three, but you'll likely have to bite your tongue a little at the end. The contrivance is a little hard to get over.

I'll certainly go on and read the fifth book, because I want to know how Rani's story ends. In particular, I'd like to see what becomes of the Fellowship, since I've hated them for at least two books now, feeling that their manipulations have NOT been in the interests of all of their own members.

**************

Buy from: Borders | Indiebound | B & N | Amazon | Powell’s
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I finished Glasswrights' Journeyman, the third book in Mindy L. Klasky's Glasswrights series about a week ago, but then got sidetracked by a convention before I had a chance to sit down and write up my review. The good news is that the book is still firmly in memory, which is a sign of how good this book is. I though the first book in this series was good. The second one suffered from the fabled "second book syndrome" in my opinion, dropping down a notch, but this third book not only recovers from that spectacularly, it surpasses the goodness of the first book by a long shot.





What I liked most about this book in comparison to the other two is two things: first, we travel to a new part of the world and visit a new society that has some immensely interesting aspects to it. The Spider Guild that is really the focus on this book was interesting and its power over the people (based on its monopoly on spider silk and its production) is easy to see and understand. I was interested in this part of the world and the guild that essentially controls it, even though there is a king and royal family here, and this kept me reading.

In addition, I was also caught up in the struggles of the two main characters, Rani and the king of Morenia, Hal. In the first book, they meet, but we don't see much interaction between them. Part of what I felt was lacking in the second book is that the two are separated for the majority of the book, so there was no tension between them. Here, however, we not only get them interacting with each other, but their entire relationship is tested again and again simply because of the circumstances and the fact that Hal is the king and subject to certain responsibilities and expectations.

The basic premise of this book is that Hal must find resources (meaning money) after the capitol city of Morenia is destroyed by a fire. He is also being pressured to find a royal wife. The two converge when it is revealed that there is a suitable, if young, bride available in far off Liantine. The bride's dowry might be enough to help Hal rebuild Morenia after the fire. He, along with Rani (ostensibly to help him barter for the best dowry), depart for Liantine in hopes of solidifying ties with the Liantine king.

And this is where pressure is put on the relationship between Hal and Rani, because they do have feelings for each other and yet both know that they cannot act on those feeling, and that realistically they can never be together simply because Hal is the king. So how can Rani barter objectively for Hal's future wife? How can Hal expect that of her? And how can Rani sit by and watch it happen if she isn't part of the process? The reason that this book works so effectively for me is because of all of this emotional turmoil. We didn't have this in the second book. Factor in the intriguing aspects of the new land and the slew of other characters that they meet once they arrive and the book takes off and holds you until the end.

So far, this is the best book in the series. I'm moving on to the fourth book, The Glasswrights' Test now and I'm hoping that the emotional struggles of the characters continue there.
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The Glasswrights' Progress is the second book in the Glasswright series by Mindy L. Klasky and I finished it this morning. I though the first book, The Glasswrights' Apprentice, showed some real promise for the character and the world and I was looking forward to seeing how Rani, the main character, was going to go about restoring the Glasswrights' Guild that was destroyed in the first book. That seemed to me to be the obvious plotline for continuing the series after the way the first book ended.





However, that turns out NOT to be what the second book is about. There are hints of that storyline here--Rani has that goal--but there isn't much progress made toward that goal in this book, regardless of the title. Instead, the book is about how Rani is kidnapped from her life in the court of the new King Halaravilli, the boy she unwittingly helped put on the throne, and taken to the northern realm of Amanthia, where King Sin-Hazar is planning war. Of course, Rani becomes embroiled in the politics and the mechanics of the preparations for war and ends up being important in the final outcome. The most shocking aspect of this war is that King Sin Hazar appears intent on forming an army of children, training them as if they were men already.

I thought the book was interesting, especially in the way in which the two kingdoms differ in their idea of a caste system. In the south, Rani's homeland, the castes are separated by, essentially, the job the person has, such as Trader or Soldier or Touched. In Amanthia, the caste is predicted at the time of the person's birth, a tattoo traced on the person's face signifying whether they are lions, owls, swans, or suns. The rest of their life is dictated by that tattoo. I also liked how the Fellowship of Jair--the group that helped Rani reach her new position in the first book--is used and how its perception shifts in this book.

That said, I felt this second novel suffered from the rumored "second novel syndrome." I didn't feel it was as well written as the first, and I was disappointed that there wasn't more done with the restoration of the Glasswrights' Guild. Some progress is made in that respect, but it was more or less tacked on to the end. The new characters introduced were interesting, but I was still more invested in Rani and her plight than any of the others. And I felt that the threat of war needed to be . . . well, more threatening. There were a few good scenes indicating the stakes, but overall the war itself--the marching northward, the preparations, and the final confrontation--weren't a significant portion of the novel. Most of it was Rani's kidnapping, the introduction of the new characters in Amanthia, and the convergence of their plotlines.

So, in the end I enjoyed the book, but overall it felt like a bridging novel to the third book. I realize that in order for Rani to make any progress in restoring her guild that she needed to leave the realm of Morenia (all things glasswright were destroyed in the previous king's rage over his son's death), but I would have liked to have seen more developed along this plotline. I'm moving on to the third book, hoping for more on the guild.

****************

Buy from: B & N | Borders | Powell’s | Amazon | Indiebound
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I've just finished The Glasswrights' Apprentice by Mindy Klasky and I have to say that I thought it was good. It's getting harder and harder to find fantasy books out there that aren't urban or paranormal. This is one of those grand old medieval setting fantasy novels, although it's set in another land, not on earth in our own past.





The main idea is that Rani's family has gathered up enough money to send her to the Glasswrights' Guild, thus setting her a level higher in the caste system of this world. In essence, her station is now above her own merchant family. However, when she inadvertently stumbles upon an assassination attempt on the prince and tries to warn him, her entire world--not to mention the guild she has so recently become a part of--tumbles down around her.

All of this happens in the first few chapters of the book. The rest of the book is how Rani manages to survive when her guild has been destroyed and any connection to the Glasswrights warrants a death sentence. She remains focused on her own survival, but somehow at every step she seems to get drawn farther and farther into the political intrigues that she stumbled into to begin with.

I had some minor issues with the novel overall--some of which were annoyances that were explained in satisfactory detail as the book progressed. The writing was good, although you can tell that this was a debut novel. The emotions of Rani at times weren't quite solid enough or weren't explored enough, but I suspect based on how the book ended that this will get better as the series progresses.

One thing that should be noted about this book is that even though it has a fantasy setting, it does not have any magic, at least not in this first book. This is a medieval fantasy with lots of political intrigue . . . and that's it. It reminds me of Katherine Kurtz in some respects, although her books were much more detailed regarding the world, and of course she did have magic interwoven into the world. But even without magic, The Glasswrights' Apprentice was an interesting read and I intend to move on to the sequel, The Glasswrights' Progress as my next read. I'm interested in seeing where Mindy Klasky takes us next.

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Joshua Palmatier

March 2017

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