THE GLASSWRIGHTS' PROGRESS
by Mindy L. Klasky
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The Glasswrights' Progress picks up the story of Rani Trader about two years after the events Mindy L. Klasky detailed in The Glasswrights' Apprentice. Klasky's second novel shows the same strengths she demonstrated in the first novel as well as the weaknesses, although the latter are not as obvious as in her debut. While The Glasswrights' Apprentice introduced the reader to a complex social structure in the capital city of Moren, the action remained firmly rooted in the city. In The Glasswrights' Progress, Klasky explores the equally complex culture outside the walls of the city and, in fact, the kingdom, as Rani finds herself in the neighboring kingdom of Amanthia.
Following the destruction of the Glasswrights' Guild, Rani has vowed to restore the guild in Moren. Although it would at first appear that the title would refer to Rani's progress towards her goal, the title seems more likely to refer to a progress as a Medieval journey. As the novel opens, Rani is abducted and taken to Amanthia, where she finds herself enmeshed in the politics of the court of King Sin Hazar. This gives Klasky the opportunity to build another culture. While the Morenians have a society based on highly-structured castes, the Amanthian culture is based on an equally structured astrological system which designates people as Swans, Lions, Suns, and other zodiacal symbols which determine their role.
The political situation has changed drastically since the destruction of the Glasswrights' Guild. King Shanoranvilli has died and been succeeded by his son, Halaravilli. His other son, Prince Bashanorandi, is acknowledged to have been a bastard of the former queen, killed as a traitor, and her lover. Nevertheless, Halaravilli, who was never meant to rule, recognizes Bashanorandi as his brother in accordance with his father's wishes. Rani has been brought into court along with the former Touched girl, Mair.
Klasky also uses a wide variety of viewpoint characters to tell her tale. Not only do we see Rani's point of view, but King Hal and his tribulations ruling Morenia, being loyal to his friends, and, most difficult, remaining a part of the Fellowship of Jair. Other characters who offer glimpses of life in Klasky's world include Shae, a Sun from Amanthia whose duty it is to look after orphans, and King Sin Hazar himself. The latter character causes a few narrative problems. Everything we see of Sin Hazar through the other characters' eyes show him as being a completely evil man. When the reader is privy to his own thoughts, his actions and motives are still reprehensible, but they become more understandable.
In The Glasswrights' Apprentice characters occasionally acted against their characterization and this is a problem which still occurs in The Glasswrights' Progress. Most notable is the attitude of Crestman, an AWOL officer of Sin Hazar's "Little Army" who puts aside his own concerns which led him to leave the army when it becomes expedient to rejoin and later to exercise his command in surprising ways. What makes this difficult to believe is Klasky's initial portrayal of him as someone to whom expedience is not important.
Klasky has set a goal for Rani Trader. Rani manages to make a slight progress towards that goal in The Glasswrights' Progress, but it is clear that Klasky has more stories to tell about Rani, Mair and Hal as heir world continues with all its complexities. If Klasky continues in the directions she's going, the world of Morenia and Amanthia could become an encreasingly rich, and ever more complex, fantasy world to entice readers.
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