Jealousy Glass by Gwen Perkins and Reviewed by Anna Call for IF06

On Books: The Jealousy Glass

This second installment in Gwen Perkins’ fan favorite Artifacts of Empire series leans heavily on wheelings and dealings, but sacrifices plot in the name of plotting. The book opens with a fairly good action scene, yet the pace quickly slackens. Protagonists Felix and Asahel expound redundantly on theology and court politics, often ruminating over events that occurred in the first book, The Universal Mirror. Felix clutches his mystical sword a lot, which is a great metaphor for his tortured desire for Asahel, but not much magic happens either way. Though the second half of Jealousy Glass loses much of this padding, the pace remains jerky.

The Jealousy Glass by Gwen Perkins and Reviewed by Anna Call for IF06

A well-written book with a jerky plot might still work as fantasy, but unfortunately awkward language also plagues The Jealousy Glass. Perkins overuses the passive voice and seems to struggle with identifying her characters in conversation. If Asahel and Felix were having a conversation and Asahel were to stretch, the readers might be treated to “the younger man stretched awkwardly.” The effect, over the course of the book, is that none of the characters seem to know what to do with their hands while they are talking. One can imagine that this was even worse for the author than it is for the reader.

Despite novel’s failings, both Asahel and Felix are distinct characters. While sexuality never pops up, the subtext of their love could hardly be clearer. While the many coy hints may enrage diehard romance fans, LGBT readers will appreciate the respect with which Perkins treats these sympathetic, though star-crossed, gay characters.

Intense slimming down could bring out the good story hidden within the chaff. All elements are present: engaging, likeable characters, a good story, some drama, some action. There is even some potential for crossover with readers of political drama. Unfortunately, digging through the repetitive padding is not worth the effort.

Readers who enjoyed the first book in the series will probably appreciate The Jealousy Glass, but even fans may find this one a snooze. While many won’t mind—this installment is primarily a bridge between one upheaval and another—others might skim through and wait for the next book, The Oracle Bones. Tune in for that if you already like Felix and Asahel, because it will almost definitely be more interesting. Their love will consummate, or it won’t; they will change national allegiances, or they won’t; the Anjuri citizens will abandon theology, or they won’t. Fans may be able to stick this one out, but readers new to Perkins’ work would be well advised to start elsewhere.

Anna Call is a librarian and educator. She holds degrees in both creative writing and information science. After working in the private sector for a number of years, she returned to public librarianship in March of 2012. She currently works for a small rural library on the North Shore of the greater Boston area. Her interest in speculative fiction and film is rooted in the work of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

Anna writes for both Isotropic and The Big Brown Chair. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

The Jealousy Glass
Gwen Perkins
Hydra Publications (November 2012)
Cover art (above) by Enggar Adirasa

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