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.
I found myself transported back to the way literature used to be written, to the world of Bronte, Alcott, and Austen. The words are more vivid prose than simple narration and for that reason I’m not sure which audience is going to get the most out of this without getting lost or bored. You shouldn’t feel that way but in a world of constant tweets, Instagram and ADD I’m afraid some parts of literature have become a lost art.
Valente does weave a sense of whimsy and fun into the journey these kids take that causes metaphors and imagery to pop off into the page and dance across your mind like an old fashioned children’s movie. It is that youthful fancy that although the writing level may appeal more to adults, the plot points may miss their mark.
It was a truly confounding story because although I enjoyed it quite well I am of that rare breed brought up by 2 parents who read voraciously and insisted that I educate myself to the likes of Shakespeare and Dickens instead of Seventeen magazine. I read all of Louisa May Alcott while my peers studied Tiger Beat. Since far too many fall into Cliffs Notes and movies as their go to for literary works I don’t know that the audience this is probably intended for will actually appreciate the amount of depth and work Valente put into this lyrical novel.
I truly hope people will give this a chance because her characters are vivacious, the plot tempered with surprises that will bring a smile to your face and the ease in which she blends fantasy with history will make your brain feel as if it’s getting treated to a deliciously warm bath of clever wit – something too often missing in literature for the young audience today.
Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s publishing for allowing me to review this!
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*image and synopsis from Netgalley