Review of THE ISLE OF GLASS by JUDITH TARR
(first in THE HOUND AND THE FALCON trilogy)
I read another book (HOUSE OF THE STAR) by Judith Tarr (writing under the pseudonym Caitlin Brennan) a few years back and enjoyed it enough to hunt down her other works once I discovered she had published more under a different name. In THE ISLE OF GLASS we follow the monk Alfred as he leaves his comfortable life of faith for one of politics and must face the indisputable evidence that he is one of the fair folk, a fact that conflicts with his religious background.
The story feels like you’ve stumbled into the characters’ lives one day. Of course, we’re entering at a more dramatic point, but everything feels natural from the start and like these characters and this world continue on their own even when Tarr isn’t writing about them. The short chapters also help keep the tale trotting along at brisk pace.
I felt both riveted and somewhat disinterested in this book at the same time and it took me some deep thought to understand those conflicting reactions. Finally I decided that THE ISLE OF GLASS boasts fantastic writing and vivid characters, but nevertheless possesses a slightly disjointed quality that kept me from full adoration. I felt drawn into the book, but sometimes couldn’t tell you where the focus lies. In the long run, this wasn’t that distracting and I have high hopes that I’ll feel entirely engaged in the next two books in the trilogy.
The tension between magic versus faith ranked as my favorite aspect of this novel. The metaphorical possibilities of someone who feels rejected by the very God they worship jumped off the page, making Alfred’s fantastical life extremely real. Magic versus faith also examines the same conflicts as science versus faith - when compromise sometimes seem impossible, because the two ideologies clash by their basic definitions. Alfred is a monk as well as one of the fair folk. If his religion believes the fair folk all evil demons, what does that make him?
I have no predictions for where the story will go in the next book, but I trust Tarr enough as a writer to believe she’ll make the tale worth my while!