After I have had time to calm my frustrated rage-y thoughts, I've decided that while I'm only in a frustrated and disappointed phase now, the Glass series by Maria V. Snyder is definitely NOT my favorite of the series she has written.
It doesn't change the fact that I was addicted to the series for the most part though. When asked to explain my enjoyment of Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass, I've got twisted feelings of conflict that were fairly stable up until Spy Glass took a turn for the worst.
This review contains spoilers. I don't know when and where I dropped the most of my spoilers, but they are there. This review was written in a semi-ranty state and there could be spoiler mines everywhere. If you wish not to read any spoilers, please do not continue.
You have been warned.
Since I liked lists so much, here are a couple:
Overall what I liked:
- The general world of this series (which is technically the world built from the Study series that left enjoyable, more satisfactory impressions on me).
- The general story line ideas.
- The general story line characters.
- The general magic creation and use of it.
- A certain charm that Maria V. Snyder seems to be able to project from her creation.
- The reappearance of Valek and crew.
Overall what I didn't like:
- It still bugs me a little that I can't grasp the time frame or the the setting of the worlds that Ms. Snyder creates. Is it modern? Is it historical? Is it high fantasy with a modern twist? Is it simply a whole new world created with modern language and colloquial terms in place? Sometimes the characters sound like they're from a traditional high fantasy... then sometimes they sound like they're from a trendy modern YA. I can't place it.
- The direction of the "main characters" in the series as a whole was confusing, deflating and kind of frustrating. (I'll explain more later.)
- The romance -- I swear that Opal Cowan has probably gotten more action in a romance than any adult erotica I've read (not that I've read anything too hardcore, cause I generally stick to the vanilla stuff). But still, she went from a triangle to a rectangle to an almost pentagonal relationship... and everyone wanted to get in her pants! Honestly, that's a far way to go from simply being that young side character who almost got Yelena killed in Magic Study.
- The final relationship at the end. Just... no.
In a sense, the overall story was fine; decent enough to enjoy with a selection of charming characters -- seems like typical Maria V. Snyder creation. The conflicts and the plot devices, while feeling fairly scattered, at least all tied together at the end of each book properly. There was fun to be had with traveling and adventures and fights and training and such, though it seems that Opal spends A LOT of her time just traveling. Of course, kudos for leaving out most of the traveling scenes unless there was something significant that happened.
Still... I feel like several years have passed by just watching Opal travel across Sitia every other chapter.
I especially loved the incorporation of all our favorite Study series characters, especially Valek and his seconds, Janco and Ari. Again, a mental fist pump for the appearance of Valek as well as the revelation that I DO love him (more than I thought I did). I liked Lief in this series moreso than I liked him when his sister was the main character in Study, but he seems to have grown on me (and also, sarcasm always earns points if worked into the dialogue properly and Lief just did it all right).
Yelena... I was happy to see her. I loved her a lot in the Study series... But was she always a bit of an authoritative bitch? Or was that just to discern between her being a more accomplished magician now as opposed to her having been in Opal's rebellious position before. Because you'd think that, of all people, Yelena would understand how it felt to have the entire Council as well as your own Master Magician mentor not believe a word you say; or that she'd at least understand the hurt of someone you cared for and trusted, turn around and abandon you when you need help the most. She isn't an all out problem since she makes few appearances and is still a good person and also because Opal DOES tend to make very, very bad decisions. But when she dismisses Opal's claims as delusions, I had trouble not being disappointed that Yelena, of all people, would side with the Council and give up on helping Opal so quickly. It seemed out of character and like an easy plot device to help push Opal over the edge and run off the way she did.
I mean, Yelena has had first hand experience with how frustrating it is to be the only one who knows something evil is brewing and having no one believe you.
I'm not going to go as far as say that I am all raged about this series. There were just far too many moments of frustration weaved into my overall enjoyment of this series. We can say that I didn't not enjoy it. But at the same time...
Because while the frustration took full force in the last book, Spy Glass, those feelings had admittedly started tickling the surface since the first book. But being as how the world and its characters are fairly charming, I set aside my quibbles to enjoy the book.
There were just too many things that ended up being wrong about this series.
The main frustration came with Opal:
I admittedly really liked her in the first book. However, my impression of her slowly started turning sour as the series progressed.
In Storm Glass she was the young new magician learning about her magic. She was given a chance to study in the Keep and she was revered as important by lots of important people. But she lacked confidence, pride, ambition, and self-worth... She was also one of the most indecisive people ever. Which is still fine as a point for development, but sometimes one can go overboard with the wishy-washy-ness, and the moping, and the whole "I'm not worth a penny" schtick.
Opal has issue with the fact that her fellow classmates don't like her, but she also has an issue with trust. Sure, some of them are probably jealous that she's close with the infamous Soulfinder, Yelena Zaltana... but not everyone would become a jackass if you tried to make friends rather than remaining in that "No one likes me anyway so I might as well just keep to myself" bubble -- it makes you seem like a snob. (I would know. I've been there before. I learned from my mistakes. I've rectified.)
But I still liked Opal because she had time to grow into a more self-confident and goal-oriented person. And you could see that that was the direction in which Storm Glass was trying to take Opal's development.
Opal may not have been the "rush into action alpha female who kicks ass like a superhero" type. She's just a plain girl who will break when tortured, who will fear death when it is presented to her, who will admit that she's not strong enough to endure torment, and who shies away from dangerous missions. She's wishy-washy (sometimes to the point that gets frustrating), but at least she wasn't the type to blindly rush into saving lives... at least that's how it seemed.
We soon watch her transition from having trouble making any decisions at all to being a very, very bad decision-maker... and still not learning from her mistakes.
When Sea Glass came along I was still on Team Opal concerning all the Sitian conflicts and looking at how the Council and the Master Magicians and everyone else was dealing with problems. It's true that the Council takes the longest, most vexing approach in dealing with anything. The whole "deny, deny, deny... bad things can't possibly happen because we fixed the situation years ago already" flippant attitude about evil, villainous magicians trying to wreak havoc was kind of annoying. There will always be evil villains (it's the whole point in balance of power and shit like that), so denying that these things can happen only reinforces that bad things WILL happen.
I'm not saying that the story itself was annoying (well, not all of it), I'm just sitting on Team Opal because I wanted to see her march up to the Sitian Council and dance around with a smug air of "I told you so!" when the shit hits the fan and they didn't want to do anything to even try saving the world. Although you'd think that a bunch of elected representatives with experience and wisdom would be more open to all possibilities of any activities occurring in their world rather than spend so much time debating whether or not a situation could occur and then spending more time convincing each other that "if this is really happening, here are our two thousand alternatives to problem solving".
Kingdoms die due to indecisive rulers, you know.
So it sucks being the only person who knows that something bad is going down with no one on your side, because people are still debating the possibility of anything going bad in the first place. I needed Opal to use her wits and her heroisms to save the day and then rub it in the Council's face.
But the direction of Opal's story line started to nose dive for a few reasons:
First: Opal was still a doormat. She wouldn't stand up for herself and she wouldn't speak up for herself. Her first instinct is always: "No one's going to believe me anyway," or "I'm not really important enough for people to listen to me." That's fine. Find the people you can trust and make them trust you! Then make things happen and save the world with your own power and the power of your friends. Yelena did it, so can you! However...
Second: Opal has some of the worst communication skills ever. And the worst decision-making skills ever. And the worst luck ever. Combined in this formula, there is never going to be a way for her to march up to The Powers That Be and scream, "I told you so." Why is this?
Third: Because Opal ultimately ends up being the one who is proven to be a menace to society. She makes bad decisions, she keeps too many secrets, and she's too caught up in the woe of her own faults and her flaws and her desire to prove that she's not useless. And then she screws everything up because she didn't think of the bigger picture.
Finally: She knows that she makes bad decisions. She knows that she should learn to trust other people. But she doesn't.
And then in Spy Glass... I think my reaction to her can be summed up in this form: "Opal... WTF are you doing?" Some may believe that the romance was what I hated the most about the Glass series. No, it was one of the straws, but it was one of many. Opal, being one of the many straws -- a very significant straw.
Second frustration -- Kade was blindsided:
I liked Kade from the beginning. He had a strong connection with Opal in the first two books and it saddens me that he gets cut off in the third book with really weak explanations. In fact, it was as if Kade suddenly lost favor with Ms. Snyder and she just felt like writing him out (I'm not saying this is what she did. I'm just saying that this is what it felt like.)
Kade was given a strong base to develop from. Starting as a guy caught up in his woes of losing his sister and then becoming the strongest Stormdancer afterward. He learns to heal and to love again. Then he grows a connection with Opal and the two fall in love.
Things were going so well for him up until the last book when he just disappears from the story altogether. I'm not sure I liked how his character's story line was handled.
Maybe not so much a frustration, but I didn't like Ulrick from the start:
There was something about Ulrick that never sat well with me from his first appearance up to the point I was proven right about him. I'm not sure that I can honestly explain away his change with blood magic addiction, because he always displayed an ambitious, pushy type of personality.
I can see him feeling like he needed to prove to the world that he wasn't his siblings' shadow and that he could accomplish things on his own too. But a lot of his thoughts and actions, I don't agree with, and in the end, it all lead to his demise anyway.
It's just that his personality takes such an abrupt nose-dive that it feels unbelievable. How do you go from fawning, ambitious boyfriend to evil, villainous bastard just because you lost the girl. Can we really blame everything on blood magic? It seems like a fairly convenient deus ex machina.
I guess people have snapped for lesser reasons.
And then there's Devlen.........
No. Just. No.
I don't mind that we get the whole reformed act thing. That was fine. But Devlen's sudden significance in the story line after being the bad guy for two books doesn't make any sense to me. He spent the entire book being the enemy (which is fine, a good little antagonist-becoming-a-good-guy spin always hits the right spot). But the way Devlen's story line was handled came out of left-field.
Even up to the moment that Devlen almost dies to help save lives, I found myself continuing to believe that he would turn around and betray everyone. THIS is how deep his betrayal and deceit was embedded in the story. When he shows up at the Bloodrose clan with tattoos and as a friend of our main villain, I found myself thinking these thoughts:
"I knew he was a bad guy!" Except I also knew he wasn't and found myself kind of disappointed that he truly was a reformed villain.
Maybe I'm the one with trust issues.
It's just that... he suddenly went from evil scum to front-and-center love interest... no questions.
It's like, when the souls were switched, Yelena also performed a lobotomy on the two guys and they both became completely different people. And again, we use blood magic as the excuse.
Oh yes. We also use Opal as the reason too. Opal's rejection of Ulrick turned him evil. Devlen's love for Opal turned him into a changed, reformed man.
I guess this isn't the worst of story twists. But still...
Which leads me into the romance:
For the life of me, I can't wrap my mind around why Opal chose Devlen.
I can't stand behind this relationship and understand how it even managed to manifest. Even if in a strange twist, Opal accepts Devlen somehow and it's supposed to be okay, the way it happens in the book happened way too fast for my liking. One moment, she is scared of him, angry at him for all of his lies, deceit, betrayal... he kidnapped her, tortured her, aided in her sister's murder, aided in Yelena's attempted murder, tried to force her to release an evil Daviian Warper who would continue to wreak havoc and kill more people, manipulated her, stole her boyfriend's body, slept with her in her boyfriend's body (can that be called rape?)... I'm sure there's a whole lot more that he did to her.
But in the end, we're supposed to just accept that and cheer for the happy couple because they truly DO love each other? All is forgotten and forgiven in such a short span of time? In this situation, does love really trump logic? I can see forgiving him for his sins, but I have a hard time seeing how Opal can fall in love and remain with him for the rest of her life and marry him after all he did to her.
I mean, this is one heck of an extremely delayed, crazy case of a Stockholm reaction.
I can't stand on Team Devlen.
And then, I can't stand the way Opal handled her relationship with Kade. The Stormdancer loved her. He may have pushed her away before, but after they got together, they were happy, they were in love and they were just the perfect couple. Or at least they could have been.
The story was building up to a beautiful Opal/Kade pairing. Even with her unconsciously hurting Ulrick by dating him while she was still in love with Kade... I could handle that case. It doesn't make it right, and I'm not saying that Ulrick deserved to be cheated on because I never liked him, but I can still accept it in a less ragey manner.
I couldn't quite accept the whole "Since Kade doesn't really love me, I'll just settle for Ulrick" thing. Those kind of romances NEVER sit well with me, because you're basically just telling the guy he's only second best, and given the choice you'd rather be with Guy A if he actually loved you back. It's a little selfish, it hurts everyone in the end; but humans can be selfish by nature.
But after Opal and Kade got together... I guess I just can't wrap my head around how she could spend two and a half books being obsessively in love with Kade... and then explaining away her lack of resistance to Devlen's charms with, "The spark with Kade just wasn't there anymore."
And then she could use that as an excuse to kiss Devlen and sleep with him before even settling her relationship with Kade. Just because the spark between her and Kade wasn't there anymore. No matter that just 25% of the book ago she had come to the decision that she "couldn't lose Kade".
Just like that. The spark was gone. Then again, that spark was what got her interested in Kade in the first place, so maybe their relationship started off just as fragile as how it ended. Kade kind of just got the rough end of the stick and I'm sad for him.
Maybe Ms. Snyder can give him his own series with a happy ending, no?
So.... our heroine kind of has a history of cheating. Even when she was with Ulrick, she was still thinking about Kade and it is a form of cheating even if she never physically did anything with Kade. When she was with Kade... well, she was straight out unfaithful to him, twice, with two different men... without a morsel of regret. And yes, I kind of count the entire ordeal with Finn -- despite the fact that she was just trying to romance information out of him, she could have handled things better.
So.... should Devlen be worried that Opal is suddenly going to lose that spark within the next hypothetical book or two and find someone else? Or maybe return to Kade one day when she decides that she's made a mistake?
If there hadn't been an actual semblance of a committed, physical relationship between her and Kade... If Devlen had actually been more of a significant presence throughout the first two books... If Opal hadn't made her snap decisions about her life and her love life with no semblence of thought...
Maybe I could have understood why she chose Devlen and why she had to leave Kade. Maybe I wouldn't have been so frustrated that Kade just accepted her decision without a fight or an ounce of anger.
But that is still a lot of "if's" and "maybe's".