A Sea of Broken Glass is the first of three books I am to read for Booknest’s SPFBO finalist phase, the shortest among them, and handpicked by my friends over at RockStarLit Book Asylum. I was curious to read it. The author also employs a mixture of first-person and third-person points of view in her telling of the story, which I have always been fond of. The stream-of-consciousness of its main character, in particular, was very much to my liking.
A Sea of Broken Glass never quite fulfills the promise of its opening. Here is a healer on trial for witchcraft, innocent in fact but pronounced guilty through the machinations of an Inquisitor whose motives are unknown to us. This opening establishes the voice of the main character, Marissa or Ris, as she’s also known, in an engaging way; she is horrified and outraged in equal measure, and that struck a spark. Sadly, as the novel continued onwards, that spark went out for me. Above all else, I found myself incapable of connecting with the main characters at an emotional level; worse yet, the reactions of several of them in tight spots across the length of the novel came across as unbelievable. I simply could not buy into a lot of what was happening between Ris and her guardians, Aeron and Michel. All of them started off engaging enough but they lacked veracity too often throughout both dialogue and non-dialogue cues.
Sonya M. Black’s novel comes across as a pastiche of 80s sword’n’sorcery; its uncomplicated battle of good versus evil is straightforward and very familiar to every one of us fantasy nerds. The magic system leans heavily on music; the characters, all of whom have access to one set of magical skills or another, are empowered by the Light and weave their variety of magic into sounds and even songs. Interesting descriptions that weren't pushed nearly far enough to make the magic truly exceptional.
Manifestations of Darkness and Light as beings is always a fun concept to play around with, but the Darkness was never as threatening as the Inquisitor it possessed at the opening of A Sea. After a few scenes in the dream-world the characters call ‘Beyond,’ I found myself familiar with the blueprint of each encounter between the Darkness and one or another of the protagonists. This extends to other elements of the novel – I can’t, for the life of me, think of any one revelation which surprised me or brought something outside my expectations to Ris' story.
This isn’t a bad book but having reached its end, I already find myself blanking out on the events within its covers. A Sea of Broken Glass didn’t engage with me, though it certainly had elements I enjoyed – the elements of steampunk, the opening, the musicality of the magic. Booknest's SPFBO score for this one is a 5/10.
I wish Sonya the very best of luck – I’m sure A Sea of Broken Glass has its audience, and I regret that it wasn’t to my taste.