Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews
The Glass Sentence
For ages 13 and up
Penguin, 2014 ISBN: 978-0670785025
On July 16, 1799, time around the world fractured so that regions were “flung into a different age.” When what came to be called the Great Disruption was over, areas of the planet were all in the same place, but they were “hopeless separated by time,” and the old world was gone.
After the dust settled, people living in what was once the United States discovered that the country had been broken into many temporal pieces. One section called Occident, containing the eastern part of the country, was in one time or Age. To the west, the Badlands were an amalgam of many Ages. Explorers and cartologers began to set out to try to find out more about the Ages, to map the world’s new boundaries. Such journeys were dangerous, but a select few intrepid souls left their homelands to venture far across lands and oceans to learn more about their new world. The hope was that over time their “broken world could be mended” by connecting with people living in remote Ages; by sharing and learning from each other.
Sophia comes from a family of explorer cartologers. When she was only three her mother and father set off on a trip of discovery and they never came home. Sophia was left in the care of her uncle, Shadrack Ellis, and he, a famous cartologer and writer, has shared many of his discoveries with her over the years.
On the cusp of the beginning of a new century, in 1891, there are many in New Occident who are not happy with the current state of things. In their view connections with people from other Ages is harming the country. They want to close the borders so that they can be safe and not have to deal with pirates and raiders any longer. Furthermore, they think that people living in New Occident who were born elsewhere, and who don’t have citizenship, should be forced to leave the country. This idea appalls Sophia, her uncle, and many others. Many wonderful people in New Occident are from elsewhere and the idea that they will be forced to leave is painful.
Sophia and Shadrack are particularly worried because a closed border will mean that Sophia’s parents (if they are still alive) will not be able to come home. They are not carrying proof of their New Occident citizenship on their persons. Sophia and her uncle decide that they must leave New Occident to seek out Sophia’s parents and hopefully bring them home.
The worry about the changes coming to the country are bad enough, but then Uncle Shadrack is kidnapped and the house he and Sophia share is ransacked while Sophia is running errands. Sophie comes home to find the house in a state of chaos and a young man called Theo hiding there. He tells Sophia about the kidnapping, which he witnessed. The only clue Uncle Shadrack left behind was a note telling Sophia to go to see Veressa and to take his atlas with her. With the note is a glass map.
Theo and Sophia manage to find the atlas in the ransacked house. They search through its pages for a mention of a place called Veressa and come up with nothing. Sophia also tries to unlock the glass map, but nothing she does works. Then Uncle Shadrack’s housekeeper explains that Veressa is a person from Uncle Shadrack’s past. Uncle Shadrack met her when he was attending the academy of cartology in Nochtland in the Badlands. The two young people were very close for a time and many thought that they would marry, but then something happened and they drew apart.
Sophia decides that she is going to seek out Veressa and Theo offers to go with her. He is from the Badlands and knows the route to Nochtland well. They set off on a train going south and they don’t get very far before it becomes clear that some decidedly sinister men with scars on their faces are looking for Sophia. Soon Theo and Sophia are on the run, trying desperately to get away from the men. When all seems lost, the two young people are helped by a very lovely and quick-thinking pirate, who takes them under her wing and does her best to help them. Sophia and her allies have no idea that what awaits them in Nochtland is more terrifying than anything they could imagine.
This gripping, thought-provoking, and captivating story will delight teenagers and adults who are drawn to tales that are full of adventure, mystery, and elements of magic.