Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

August 4, 2012

Stained Glass Monsters by Andrea Host

One of the first purchases I made last year for my then-spanking new [1] Kindle e-reader was the complete collection of Andrea Host’s novels, self-published and distributed electronically through Smashwords, Amazon and probably heaps of other places. I immediately devoured the two series – the Medair duology and the Touchstone trilogy – and then went on to massively neglect the two stand-alone novels, Champion of the Rose and this one, Stained Glass Monsters. Well, that was a mistake. I am reviewing this book for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012 [2].

 Stained Glass is a pearler, a romantic fantasy with a welcome sense of restraint, for all that the fate of the world is at stake. Initially the story is told from the perspective of resourceful orphan Kendall, who is rescued from an unexpected magical disaster by a mysterious stranger who knew it was going to happen. Kendall, now homeless, is more or less dragged into the wake of the secretive mage, Rennyn, as the authorities appear on the scene and the scope of the threat becomes clear.

From there Stained Glass Monsters becomes a two-hander, switching between Kendall, who is sent off to learn the principles of her latent magical abilities, and Rennyn Claire who, along with her younger brother, is a member of clandestine magical conspiracy dedicated to saving the world. Kendall knows almost nothing about politics or magic, so the reader shares her crash course in world affairs. Rennyn, meanwhile, rushes about from one disaster to the next, walking a fine line between guarding terrible secrets and sharing enough information not to get everyone else killed. Both characters develop relationships with members of the Kellian race, glowing golems-turned-human with supernatural prowess and a mysterious past. If that makes them sound like Twilight vampires, I apologise; the Kellian are cool and awesome, but they also unexpectedly provide the emotional core of the story. A wrenching one it is, too.

The dual perspective is an excellent device for showing the audience the world, though in the latter stages of the book Kendall gets squeezed out a little. I thought that was a shame, though there is no doubt that Rennyn – the cool magical secret agent weighed down by self-doubt and staggering levels of responsibility – is the more interesting character of the two. Not that Kendall doesn’t get her cool moments to shine, but it’s not on her to save the world from astral-dimensional evil.

Stained Glass Monsters is a romantic fantasy, and both heroines develop strong, believable relationships. I thought perhaps too little of the early growth of Rennyn’s romance happened on-screen. It came a little out of nowhere for me (though I concede that as a reader I tend to focus on plot before character, so it’s quite possible there were cues I just missed). Whatever the buildup, Host absolutely nailed the romance itself, which is not only tender and affecting but is also crucial to everything that follows. The stakes in the dramatic climax work on every level.

This story has it all: swashbuckling adventure, magical explosions, monster fighting, kind-of-ancient evils from beyond space, noble sparkling supernatural creatures (who don’t make you want to vomit) and a heroine who would very much like to settle down with a good book and a piece of cake, but only once the world is saved, thank you very much. Highly recommended.

[1] And now slightly grimy and oddly cracking at the inside corners of the screen’s frame . I am morbidly curious about how far the cracks will extend before the whole thing falls apart. So far it has demonstrated a brutish durability I don’t normally associate with consumer electronics.

[2] Reversing my now-inexplicable earlier policy of not reviewing Andrea’s books for the challenge on the basis that I was planning to read them anyway. I guess it’s possible I was operating under the notion that somehow promoting work I had already decided to promote was against the spirit of the challenge? I dunno, that impulse seems dumb in retrospect. Andrea certainly deserves every bit of plugging she gets, because her books are wonderful.[3]

[3] And she has a new one out soon which starts after aliens have destroyed Sydney, on which I am SOLD.

8 Comments »

  1. Awesome review Dave!

    You mustn’t have a cover for your kindle – I’ve had mine longer than you and no damage whatsoever thanks to cover.

    I am seriously enjoying my apocalyptica – far more than I expected – but that’s perhaps because it’s the least-apocalyptic apocalypse imaginable.

    Comment by Andrea — August 4, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  2. You’re very welcome. I have no idea why I put off reading this one for so long, except, I suppose, the novelty of reading all the other stuff I’ve read. Very glad to have a couple more of your books up my sleeve though (well, one in potentia, but still).

    Oh, I do have a sturdy burnt orange leather cover. I can only assume it’s this that has kept the kindle in one piece at all, and that without it I would have a slender slab of e-ink-stained plastic shards by now. (I store it in a backpack with all sorts of other bits and pieces, and I drop it more than I probably ought to. It’s genuinely a wonder that it works at all).

    I look forward to your semi-apocalyptica. October, you said?

    Comment by lexifab — August 4, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

  3. Yep, October. Just reaching the climactic chapters now. First draft should be done this month, then betas, editing, copy-editing, blah blah blah. I expect early October.

    Comment by Andrea — August 4, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

  4. I just added a few books to my holiday reading starting next weekend. Thanks!

    Comment by KarlM — August 4, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

  5. I feel nothing but shame at your diligence.

    Comment by lexifab — August 4, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

  6. Karl – Yay, I’m influencing people!

    (You’re welcome, by the way. What did you pick? Just SGM? Because the Medair books are also very cool epic fantasy).

    Comment by lexifab — August 4, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

  7. […] Stained Glass Monsters by Andrea K. Host. I enjoyed the ebook version of this one and reviewed it as well. […]

    Pingback by Books of 2012 – July « Lexifabricographer — August 7, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

  8. […] reviewed it here. Dense and engaging, romantic and thrilling and featuring some very exciting set pieces and  […]

    Pingback by Favourites of 2012 – Novels « Lexifabricographer — January 5, 2013 @ 10:09 am

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