Review: Falcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Falcon in the Glass by Susan FletcherFalcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on July 9, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
AmazonThe Book Depository

In Venice in 1487, the secrets of glassblowing are guarded jealously. Renzo, a twelve-year-old laborer in a glassworks, has just a few months to prepare for a test of his abilities, and no one to teach him. If he passes, he will qualify as a skilled glassblower. If he fails, he will be expelled from the glassworks. Becoming a glassblower is his murdered father’s dying wish for him, and the means of supporting his mother and sister. But Renzo desperately needs another pair of hands to help him turn the glass as he practices at night.

One night he is disturbed by a bird—a small falcon—that seems to belong to a girl hiding in the glassworks. Soon Renzo learns about her and others like her—the bird people, who can communicate with birds and are condemned as witches. He tries to get her to help him and discovers that she comes with baggage: ten hungry bird-kenning children who desperately need his aid. Caught between devotion to his family and his art and protecting a group of outcast children, Renzo struggles for a solution that will keep everyone safe in this atmospheric adventure.

During my junior year of college, I was lucky enough to get to travel to Italy. Part of the trip was Venice and a quick jaunt out to Murano. Ever since I’ve been unable to resist any book set in Murano, not that it’s easy to resist any book set anywhere I haven’t traveled or want to travel. Still, Murano, for some reason, has a special place in my heart. Thus, though I’d not really heard much about this middle grade title, I could not resist it. While I did enjoy the setting, my heart wasn’t really in the story, which wasn’t as epic as the sort of fare I am used to.

Falcon in the Glass takes place in fifteenth century Murano, a small island off the coast of Venice. Renzo, short for Lorenzo, is the man of the house, ever since his father died in disgrace after Renzo’s uncle dared leave Venice, taking the secrets of glassblowing with him. See, glassblowing was pretty intense back in the day, and they were kind of like the mob about letting people leave, because they didn’t want anyone outside Murano how to do what they did. To be fair, it would seriously cut into their profit margins.

Reading about glassblowing is one of my weird obsessions. There’s so much beauty in glassblowing, and I enjoy fiction that has a focus on something special like that. My favorite parts of Falcon in the Glass were the quiet scenes where Renzo’s working on his glassblowing. It’s so incomprehensible and magical to me how all of that works. The fact that I’ve seen people glassblowing on Murano only made it better.

The novel has a slight fantasy component in the form of a kenning between some gypsy children of indefinite origin and birds. As a concept, it’s pretty cool, and I think younger readers will be charmed by it. I also appreciated the ending for being a bit darker than usual in middle grade. Though it’s not super depressing or anything it’s not the happy resolution of all troubles that usually results in books for young readers.

Sadly, though, I just didn’t feel any connection to the characters whatsoever, and the plot was a bit too slow for me. I particularly didn’t care for the halfhearted attempt to create a romance between the oldest bird girl and Renzo when it really wasn’t necessary.

For older readers, I’d be more inclined to recommend The Glass Swallow by Julia Golding, which is a more strongly fantasy novel of glassblowing. Younger readers, however, might do well with Falcon in the Glass.

Favorite Quote:

“But it’s wood! It’s dark and heavy and lightless. There’s no fire to it, no glow. Woodworkers don’t dance. They hunch over, pound at things, hack at them.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


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