The Palace of Glass – by Django Wexler (Review)

The Forbidden Library #3

Fantasy, YA

Kathy Dawson Books; April 12, 2016

368 pages (ebook); 8hr 15min (audio)

4 / 5 ✪

The Palace of Glass encapsulates what I love about fantasy in general. Adventure, new worlds, new imagination, action, wit, and epic quests. While I was a little less thrilled by the back half of the story, nor the manner in which it transitioned from one portion to the next, the third book in the Forbidden Library series was still a must read for me. I want to mention right away—Cassandra Morris does an excellent job reading Alice! She plays an excellent part, equal parts excitement and trepidation, with more than her fair share of determination. A perfect Alice!

Following the events of The Mad Apprentice, Alice is left with a terrible choice. Whether to continue to accept her father’s killer as her master, or to turn against him knowing full well it will likely mean her death. For she now knows what fate befalls apprentices that betray their masters. And yet, this is a fight Alice knows she can’t avoid. Because—really—there is no choice.

She’s not alone in this fight, however. The labyrinthine Ending has her back—at least kind of. She provides Alice a spell that might just imprison Geryon if Alice can catch him unaware. But the spell is specific, and she’ll only have one shot at it. Now, the spell will bind her uncle, but Alice needs somewhere to put him afterwards. As she can’t imagine killing him—despite what he did to her father—Alice requires a certain item to help her defeat him. Specifically, a certain book. A prison book.

Lucky for her, Geryon is called away, leaving Alice in charge in his stead. Unfortunately, she has but a week before he returns. And the prison book she requires lies deep, deep within the magical realms of the library itself. But even if Alice can get in and retrieve it, AND escape with her life all in the space of one week, will she have the fortitude to use it? Her anger is great, but time dampens all wounds. And even should she succeed in imprisoning Geryon—what then? Who will run the library in his absence? And what will Alice do, when her uncle’s fellow Readers fall upon her, seeking revenge?

So much stress for someone so young. Or anyone, really.

The Palace of Glass actually tells two stories in one. The first involves Alice and her revenge upon her uncle, who—rather than actually killing her father like she claimed, more just let him die (so, still a dick, but not exactly as big of one). While I’m trying to be all enigmatic and non-spoilery about it, I think you can guess what happens. Yup, she returns from her adventures to find Geryon waiting, then they have a dance battle to decide the fate of the library. Ending MCs. The second part of the story deals with the fallout from this epic dance battle. The other readers, feeling the explosion of magic (beats) from the library, deploy in force, sensing blood in the water. The winner is forced to defend themselves and the library, maybe with help from the creatures within. And maybe some other friends.

Both stories are good. The disconnect, however, is a bit awkward. I mean, it’s worse to review without trying to spoil, but the transition between the two tales doesn’t exactly flow great. I had to actually take a little break in between the parts because I had trouble just jumping from one to the next. It’s not that everything changes—but several things do. We go from realms of magical worlds, magical creatures and amazing, little-seen worlds—to the library, with humans, hip hop dance beats, and labyrinthine. Labyrinthines? Labyrinthine? It’s under an umbrella of magic, but still. The stories are different, the motivations and actions and results are mostly different. There’s just a bit of a hiccup here, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Just a bit awkward.

The characters of the Forbidden Library continue to be my favorite aspect of the series. Don’t get me wrong—I love the adventure. The magic. The story. But the characters are all unique, interesting, and propelled by their own motivations. Their interactions are key to the success of the story (or in this case BOTH stories), and the story IS a success. I especially love Alice, which is great since she’s the lead. Inherently likable, but also human. Now, there isn’t a whole lot of character development, but this is a YA (or middle-grade) series, so I really didn’t expect much. It is disappointing, though. The other old Readers make an appearance, along with a whole host of magical creatures. The labyrinthine Ending and Ashes are back, as are several familiar faces among the apprentices. There’s also one important guest star, whom I won’t spoil.

The creatures and realms of PoG stole the show for me. While the characters are the stars of the series, the adventure is the highlight of the book. Wexler does an excellent job of painting alien worlds, creatures, which my mind was more than happy to run with. While the exploration of new and unique is pretty much confined to the first half of the book, don’t worry—there’s plenty of excitement and surprises waiting in the second half.

TL;DR

Despite trying to tell two stories in one, The Palace of Glass is another successful entry in the Forbidden Library quartet. Mostly, it pulls it off. A small disconnect exists between the two tales, though nothing too distracting. As usual, the reader Cassandra Morris is a great help to the story—not to mention an excellent Alice—moving everything along even when the pacing got uneven. The characters are the real reason to read this book. As in the rest of the series, the characters are key, providing interesting interactions, dynamic, conversation and wit. Just don’t expect too much in the way of development. This is a YA series, after all. Recommended to everyone, but specifically fans of adventure, YA, or fans of Wexler’s other books. If you haven’t read any of the series, I’d recommend starting at the beginning. And since I’ve now finished it I can say—don’t worry, you shouldn’t be disappointed.

The Forbidden Library quartet concludes with The Fall of the Readers, out since 2017.

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