Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman



 


In the sleepy village of Nag's End, nothing much ever seems to happen, so Rowan's life is one of study. She dreams of being a scholar like her father. She spends her free time with her best friend Tom, swimming, playing, daring each other.
But, one day, five riders bearing the King's crest ride by Nag's End, and when their horses return sans riders a search party is organized. One of the riders shows signs of having been mauled by some kind of beast.. the other four are untouched and lie dead in the snow. 
The superstitious villagers insist it was all the work of a wolf and are quick to rid themselves of the bodies.
Shortly afterwards, Fiona arrives - she's too enchantingly beautiful: hair black as a crow's wing, ruby red lips, skin white as snow. 
Rowan's father forbids her to speak to Fiona, but once she learns Fiona is her cousin, and with a little insistence from Tom (who wishes to court Fiona), Rowan ends up meeting her cousin.

The title and blurb were very misleading to me. The actual Glass Casket appears for only one scene and has no particular significance to the plot. And all that talk of Death not having visited Rowan, etc., made me believe that a personification of Death would appear in the book, when it's merely referring to the deaths that occur within the story. 


It's an imaginative world: the villagers believe that goblins steal children to feast upon their flesh, fairies bewitch people to drown them in the lake, and the nixies who live in a cave beneath that lake, when a man would swim under moonlight, they'd tear the flesh from his bones.
There are several types of witches: the greenwitches who heal, the redwitches who draw their power from passion, the woodwitches who live in forests, the bluewitches who drew their strength from water and divined the future, and of course, the greywitches who were said to be wicked creatures who hoarded silver. 

There is an old fairytale tone to the whole story, weaved with terror and tragedy. There is a wintry atmosphere, with the falling snow covering the horrors that happen in the forest. 
We never really know where this is happening, a made up world which is a mix of Old Europe and Colonial America? Either way, they use the word "okay" in dialogue which never fails to pull me out of the story. "Okay" has been used from the mid-nineteenth century forward. Don't write about witch-hunts then use "okay" to go with it, please.
And it's a very, very slow book. Within the first 100 pages nothing of particular importance happens - you'd think they could have been used to develop the characters, but they were all collections of traits, I never really felt as if they were real. All the effort that went into keeping the mystery just made all the character act oddly, since nothing in the dialogue or their actions could be revealed.

And to be honest, it got a bit tedious. All the talk of wickedness this, wickedness that, and the death rites, and the superstitions. The writing is fine, but there is something missing... how can you write about a bestial force slaughtering people in a superstitious village full of people who believe that fairies are out to get you... and make it boring? I don't know.


McCormick Templeman's official site

Buy The Glass Casket
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)


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