The Glass Sentence (The Mapmakers Trilogy #1) by S.E. Grove

Hardcover, 493 pages
Published June 12th 2014 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased

I have read this book twice and liked it better the second time I read it. There is no way I can do justice to the premise so here’s the official summary:

She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.

Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.  Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

The Glass Sentence plunges readers into a time and place they will not want to leave, and introduces them to a heroine and hero they will take to their hearts. It is a remarkable debut.

Some adults would argue that the premise is a bit too sophisticated for children but those adults would only merit an eye-roll from yours truly because kids are able to parse incredibly complex situations and narratives. It is adults who arbitrarily designate limits to a child’s imagination or ability to understand certain things and situations.

The Glass Sentence is remarkably original. Every continent or tract of land in the world within the book is a different time period. The earth is out of balance, time-wise, and what that means for the world is a question that remains to be answered in the sequels because in The Glass Sentence we are much more concerned about Sophia, her kidnapped uncle, her new friend and their flight to dubious safety.

The first time I read this book I found the opening quite a chore to get through. The second time around, it hit a bit too close to home. In the beginning of the novel, the government of the old Boston in the book is debating closing its borders to all foreigners.

Sound familiar?

Yeah. Sophia is from a family of cartographers but the maps her uncle reads and sometimes creates are not the usual kind we are familiar with. The maps in Sophia’s world are more complex objects containing sensory and visual memories. There are water maps, land maps, and all sorts of other maps.

The book is structured as a heroic journey of sorts except there are no obvious heroes. The world building is exquisite, the character building even more so. Sophia has no concept of time, that is, her inner-clock doesn’t work. She loses time more easily and more frequently than others do. Passing hours can feel like moments to her while moments can stretch into hours. This affects her in curious ways and makes her eminently fascinating.

The character dynamics are wonderful. The book is incredible evocative and creative. The side characters are as colourful as the protagonists. The Glass Sentence is also incredibly thoughtful and contemplative–in a way that many books intended for children often aren’t. The novel will motivate children to wonder and what more can you ask of a book?

So to wrap this ramble: The Glass Sentence is an exquisite beginning of what promises to be an astonishing trilogy. It entertains and makes you think. Recommended.

  • Laura Rinaldi

    Perhaps I should read this book again. The first time was hard to read, I agree.

    • It takes a while to get going which is understandable because the world within is so incredibly complex. I reckon taking it sloooowly helps. I read it super slow this time around and enjoyed it a lot more.