Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book 48: The Girl With Glass Feet

Every reader comes to a book with a certain set of expectations. Sometimes those expectations are met. Occasionally exceeded, and -- all too often -- expectations fall short.

That was my experience with Ali Shaw's debut novel, The Girl With Glass Feet. I'm not sure where the expectation came from, but I was anticipating a fantasy novel. What I got was something altogether different.

There are elements of the fantastic in this novel: a beast who turns any creature who looks into its eyes entirely white, moth-winged bulls and, most notably, a girl who is slowly turning to glass beginning with her feet.

I expected these odd elements to come together into a fantastic whole. I expected a quest. Wizards. Great battles. Heroism. Fantasy novels require something of the epic even in a prosaic setting: Think of the terrifying barnyard battle between good and evil in Walter Wangerin's superb Book of the Dun Cow.

There's none of that here. There is a love story and while it doesn't rise to the level of say Romeo and Juliet it has its moments. The young lovers evoke something heroic in one another; each is able to rise above their limitations -- one to face death bravely, the other to confront life.

It's an OK debut, but only that. Over-written as such novels tend to be. Quiet, but perhaps too quiet, too reserved. It wouldn't be a bad book for a wintry weekend amid ice and snow and lowered expectations.

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