by Mindy L. Klasky



324pp/$6.99/July 2000

The Glasswrights' Apprentice

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The appearance of a first fantasy novel is always an event to be greeted with elation and expectation.  It signifies that the field is still dynamic and will continue into the future.  Whether or not the new author lives up to the promise shown by a new name appearing on the shelves is a question beside the point.  In July, 2000, Roc Books introduced the name Mindy L. Klasky to fantasy readers with her first novel, The Glasswrights’ Apprentice.

Rani Trader is the apprentice of the title in a society in which social mobility only exists in the most rare of cases.  Rani’s parents have managed to purchase her an apprenticeship, but the hopes of the future may be set aside when Rani is a witness to the assassination of a popular royal prince.

From the opening pages of The Glasswrights’ Apprentice, Klasky portrays a complex pseudo-Medieval world which she explains and explores throughout the novel.  While it is clear that both Klasky and Rani understand the way this world works, it is equally clear that Rani understanding is faulty and she will learn more about the way her world really works throughout the course of the novel.

Klasky’s depiction of a fantasy civilization includes many of the Medieval clichés which readers have come to expect.  In fact, her portrayal of society could almost be considered satirical, although it lacks the self-awareness necessary to fully skewer the clichés Klasky presents and expands on, for Klasky manages to move beyond the clichés relatively quickly, allowing herself the opportunity to explore the world she has created and allowing Rani discover her true potential.

The royal family is made up of an aged monarch who can be nurturing or vengeful as the circumstances dictate.  His oldest son, Prince Tuvashanoran is depicted as the perfect prince whose acts of charity cause needed rain to fall.  Tuvashanoran’s brother, Halaravilli, is depicted as practically an idiot, more interested in playing with his tin soldiers than taking on a useful role.

On the other end of the societal spectrum are Mair and Rabe, street urchins of the lowest caste, the Touched.  Nominally the equivalent of India’s “Untouchables,” these characters clearly have a spy network and influence far beyond what could be expected of their position in (or outside) the society.

Not everyone is happy with the caste system which exists so strongly that it even affects names (the longer the name, the more important one’s caste), and Rani discovers a shadowy organization which is attempting to overthrow the caste system.  Just as Tuvashanoran is perfect in every respect, the leader of the rebels is the most handsome of men with a wonderful singing voice.  Furthermore, like Rani, he managed to rise through the castes of society.

The world Klasky portrays is more interesting than her individual characters.  Although the characters are never exactly what they seem, they fact that they are all filling multiple roles is a little too transparent for the ploy to work fully.  Klasky could have avoided this by allowing a few characters to be exactly what they seem in order to keep the reader slightly off balance.

At the end of the novel, events seem to be tied up a little too neatly.  Rani acts against her character as Klasky has portrayed her throughout the entire novel without a sign of the angst one would expect. 

Klasky has demonstrated that she can conceive a Byzantine plot, however she also demonstrates that she needs more experience in order to fully pull off all the intricacies of such a plot while tying off the loose ends in a satisfying manner.  The Glasswrights’ Apprentice demonstrates that Klasky has the ability to produce intriguing and worthwhile novels and will certainly be an author to read as her career advances.

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