Book Review: The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

Title: The Glass Casket
Series: Standalone
By: McCormick Templeman
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre Type: Paranormal, Fairy Tale
Publication Date: February 11th 2014
Pages: Hardcover, 352 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Bought


Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders' bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.

Rowan's village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan's door once again.

Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.

It's Starting

With those words, The Glass Casket sends a delightful shiver down our spine. The book and cover promises a mystery filled with dark and evocative writing and lush imagery, and it completely does that. The story is a fairy tale retelling of sorts, and brings to mind immediately the Grimm's fairy tale Snow White with it's glass casket, but it is much more than that. McCormick Templeman has taken symbols and themes from various fairy tales and interwoven them into an dark and enchanting mix. This story is really a fairy tale lovers delight, especially for those who enjoy the darker, unsanitized versions.

ONE BLEAK MORNING in the eye of winter, five horses and five riders thundered into the remote mountain village of Nag's End. Without ceremony or respect for local custom, they charge through the square and up the steep alpine trail that lay just beyond. Hazarding the rocky terrain, they weave their way between snow-shrouded pines, climbing ever higher until they reach the icy plateau of Beggar's Drift-a place, it was said, that the Goddess had forsaken.

Not all secrets stay buried

The Glass Casket opens with five riders thundering through Nag's End on some seemly important adventure, but three days later the horses return, petrified and without their riders. Once a tranquil village, one that still clings to the old ways,  the mountain people of Nag's End find their village beset by something darker and more dangerous than any of their lore and beliefs could have imagined. Something insatiable has brought death to Nags End.

This book was pretty much a perfect match for me. I loved it. The plot itself has a mystery in it that really kept me guessing as it skillfully wove a cast of characters and events that made you suspicious, yet unsure until the end. There's prophecies, superstitions, and folklore as well as family secrets, revenge and murder.

The writing is chilling, lush and yet not over the top. The supernatural elements to the story thrilled me as my heart beat faster at some of macabre scenes in The Glass Casket. As far as pace goes, it is a slower read as you absorb the writing detail and clues.

The remote setting of Nags End with its snow laden village and dark forest lends perfectly to the stories atmosphere. There's funeral processions to a remote cemetery that I could not put out of my mind. Lakes rumored to be inhabited by hungry, flesh eating water nixies. Ancient forests that breed wolves and more.

Rowan, her cousin Foina Eira, Tom, and Jude are the main cast of characters with the story told mostly from Rowan's point of view. The narration/action gives the reader a great sense as to what everyone is thinking and feeling without giving away the mystery. Rowan and Tom are best friends and have grown up together. They share just about everything and are very close. Suddenly everything begins to change for Rowan. Her best friend seems to be only fascinated with the new arrival of her exotic cousin Fiona, and as death and murder seem to surround all else, Rowan fears for the life she use to have. When someone close to her is murdered, Rowan must use all the knowledge her father has taught her in order to try to stop the evil descending on her family and friends.

Rowan is very book smart, and has been taught by her father many languages, and reads ancient texts. I could easily feel her conflict as she is torn between wanting to leave Nags End and go to the palace city to become a scholar and staying, marrying and becoming a wife. You can feel her resentment, anger and frustration that she had no real say in her destiny when her father takes her hopes away from her. The murders actually bring out the toughness in Rowan as she takes charge, no longer settling for being simply a girl-weak and useless. No, she changes all that. Tom, Fiona, and Jude all add to the mystery and my heart went out to them as they each struggled with their own secrets.

Romance is interwoven into the story between more than one set of characters. There's a sort of forbidden romance, and an unforeseen, slow romance that was my favorite. No love triangles to worry about. Readers will have thrills and chills in unexpected ways.

The Glass Casket is a stand alone book which makes it nice since everything is wrapped up nicely, the end concludes the mystery. This was my first read by McCormick Templeman and I'm definitely keeping her on my watch list. If you are a fan of darker, fairy tale inspired retellings, then this book is for you. Rich and atmospheric, McCormick Templeman transports you to her realm until the last page.

My Rating: 5 stars. I loved it.

Notable Scene:

     IT WAS A COFFIN. A glass coffin, intricately carved, and set out in the yard for all to see. Inside it was the girl, her black hair splayed out around her, her lips like rotting cherries set against a newly ashen complexion.
     Her body had been swaddled in white mourning cloth, but it was possible to see that she was no longer a full person. Flowers of blood bloomed where her chest should have been, and there was a dip to the torso that intimated she'd been all but hollowed.
     Arlene's hand flew to her mouth.
     And then the world seemed to spin, and a deafening cry rose up in Arlene's ears, surrounding her, threatening to swallow her up, and she lost her balance, her feet faltering in the snow. It was only when she caught herself that she realized that the scream had been her own.
     Fighting back tears, she turned and hurried out of the yard.

page 129, The Glass Casket  by McCormick Templeman