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Review: ‘The Glasswrights’ Apprentice’ by Mindy L. Klasky

June 25, 2014

Summary: Mind your caste. Everyone in Rani Trader’s country lives according to their caste. If she wanted to stay out of trouble, merchant Rani needed to mind her caste as well. But her parents sacrificed nearly everything to buy her an apprenticeship into the Glasswrights’ Guild, moving Rani–now Ranita Glasswright–up a step in the caste ladder.

And then, one horrible day, everything went wrong. Ranita found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because of her, a beloved prince ends up dead. Ranita finds herself on the run, unable to trust anyone, even return to her family or her guild, because she’s now unwittingly pulled into the secrecy and lies of a conspiracy against the royal family. Branded a traitor, Rani slinks through her city’s streets and hides her identity to avoid getting caught. Death is always just one step behind her as she struggles to unravel the web of the hidden cabal and bring order to her life. From the slums of the city to the royal household itself, Rani must uncover the truth and bring the perpetrators to light before she’s discovered or loses her family and her guild for good.

My Thoughts: As the start to a series, I think this book is particularly strong. The plot is well-paced and interesting, the characters are good, and the writing draws you in.

Rani (who also goes by other names, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick with her birth name) is a sympathetic character. At times she does come off a little whiny and self-pitying, but by and large, she’s an innocent, with all that that implies. She does her best to navigate around the city and the dangerous politics after the disaster she unwittingly helped to cause, but at times she does trust people too much and goes along with things even when she doesn’t understand or agree. In short, she’s a good tool for a shadowy cabal bent on overthrowing the kingdom’s royal family.

But she’s sympathetic because of everything she goes through and everything she loses. I won’t go too much further into that since I could end up giving something away, but with all that she goes through, I end up just feeling sorry for her. I want her to succeed, but that success is not going to be without tragedy.

Mair, a Touched girl, becomes one of Rani’s friends while Rani hides in the streets. Mair becomes a sort of protector for Rani–she’s tough and fiercely independent. She sets up a contrast between herself and Rani in terms of privilege, desires, and independence. I like Mair, though she’s not always one of my favorite characters, and her motives are sometimes questionable. The reader doesn’t find out until closer to the end whether Mair can be trusted or not . . . and she has secret ties to another cabal as well.

Prince Hal is one of my favorite characters. A few years older than Rani, he’s the second prince of the realm. His older brother is the one to be killed in the machinations of the villains. Rani begins to bond with the prince and they become friends. Hal is one of my favorites because his personality just feels like it jumps off the page. He’s hiding his own secrets though, and I look forward to reading more about him in the following books.

The villains of this book are intriguing because the reader doesn’t always know who the villain is. There is a character who starts off as the obvious villain, but when that character dies about midway through, the reader is left wondering what’s next. Klasky doesn’t hesitate to fill this gap in, however, with an even bigger nemesis, the cabal behind the scenes. Things heat up after that as Rani gets closer to their lair and inserts herself, however unwillingly, into the plans so she can try to set things right. These guys are pretty hardcore–murderers, liars, politicians, thieves, etc. They won’t stop until they get what they want or die. For an innocent like Rani to be swept into that world is fascinating and unnerving and I ended up disliking the villains a great deal.

The world created by Klasky in this book is fascinating. Names are determined by your caste, with the number of syllables growing the higher up your caste is. Touched people (the lowest caste) are only allowed a single syllable: Mair or Rai. But the highest caste of nobility and clergy is allowed five syllables: Halaravilli. You can always tell where a person falls in the caste scheme by looking at their name. Religion also plays a big role in not only the home country of Morenia, but her neighbors as well. Morenia follows a sort of polytheistic religion with the Thousand Gods, while Brianta is monotheistic and this creates some tension. The setting is generally that of a medieval Europe type of world, but the organization of the countries and the look into caste-hopping is what sets this book out for me.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and it’s one I will re-read many times. I only took off a few points for characterization, as sometimes Rani’s character annoyed me and felt a little flat around the middle of the book. But otherwise, the plot is great, the writing good, and the characters and setting excellent.

4 stars


Find on Amazon * Author Website * Goodreads * Shelfari
Book info: published 2000, 339 pages, ISBN 978-0451457899

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