Wilhelmina Heidle, the fourth child and only daughter of the king of the world’s wealthiest nation, has grown up in the shadows. Kept hidden from the world in order to serve as a spy for her father—whose obsession with building his empire is causing a war—Wil wants nothing more than to explore the world beyond her kingdom, if only her father would give her the chance.
Until one night Wil is attacked, and she discovers a dangerous power. Her touch turns people into gemstone. At first, Wil is horrified by her power—but as she tests its limits, she’s drawn more and more to the strange and volatile ability. When her newfound power leads to tragedy, though, Wil is forced to face the destructive power within her and finally leave her home to seek the truth and a cure.
But finding the key to her redemption puts her in the path of a cursed prince who has his own ideas for what to do with Wil’s power.
With a world on the brink of war, and a power of ultimate destruction, can Wil find a way to help the kingdom that’s turned its back on her, or will she betray her past and her family forever?
The Glass Spare derives inspiration from The Midas Touch myth, primarily, with the protagonist discovering she can turn living objects into precious stones. Her gift first manifests at a time of stress, but soon it becomes a compulsion. When an accident leads her to being exiled from her kingdom and her rightful place as the princess, she sets out to find a cure for her accursed powers. During her travel, she gets caught up in the politics of the Southern kingdom and the cursed prince who wants to use her powers to help his kingdom.
The Glass Spare has a slow developing plot, set in a kingdom that at first feels high fantasy but also has a lot of steampunk elements. There is an anachronistic blending of modern tech and medicine with the setting, that can be jarring at times – maybe because it is unexpected in a high fantasy. Like, there are solar-powered digital tech, but medicine is mostly apothecary-style, with powdered herbs and infusions being used. Alchemy is something different than what we have known, and is more closer to nanotech engineering combined with potion-making (like, there is a cauldron and stuff). The kingdoms themselves, though geographically different, have similar politics – ruthless royals, conquest-minded, sibling rivalries, etc. Wil has been the hidden princess, but she is far from sheltered – she has been honed to be a spy for her kingdom, skills that help her on her path. Similarly, the other kingdom’s prince, Loom has had a warrior-like upbringing, but is also very kind to his people.
The story is, well, very unexpected. After her exile, it mostly goes down unpredictable paths, and I would rather not spoil it here in a review. The romance is a bit under-developed and I really didn’t see any chemistry, but these feelings made sense towards the end. Though the story is mainly from Wil’s perspective (in a third person), we also get occasional glimpses into other characters, like her brother, her mother, Loom himself. For a starting novel, this has me intrigued and I am excited to see where the author will take the story, in the sequel (this is meant to be a duology).
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Balzer + Bray, via Edelweiss.