Characters are strong and believable in a world of magic.
Sugar Glass is set in the world of Vertiga, where Pip Janssen’s earlier novel The Red Mage also came from. You can read my review of The Red Mage here. Sugar Glass is not a direct sequel; instead the events of this book run almost parallel to The Red Mage. This does not detract from either book, although I am glad that I read The Red Mage first for context.
Sugar Glass focuses on Roan and Lia Palion; they are twins who have travelled from a very small mining village to the city of Corenth. Corenth is beyond their imagination as it is an extremely large and bustling capital city. The twins are extremely hard working and as journeymen - Roan is a cobbler and Lia a baker - they have worked their way to Corenth. After a close encounter with a runaway cart, luck falls into their laps and they end up in a world neither of them could ever dreamed of being part of once it is discovered that Roan has magic and has come to the attention of Phineas, a high level mage. Phineas allows both Lia and Roan to live in his home, while he teaches Roan how to harness his magic and he also sets up a meeting for Lia with a Confisiere, which in my mind is like extreme dessert making and in Vertiga is seen as an art form requested by all the high ranking and rich throughout Vertiga.
Roan and Lia, being twins, have always been there for each other and have done everything together. At the start of Sugar Glass they have never had to think that anything would separate them. With the discovery of Roan’s magic though, Lia has to come to terms with the fact that this is something that she will not be able to participate in and feels jealous because of this. As Lia is the more headstrong twin she begins to learn to stand on her own and share in the joy of discovery rather than falling into bitterness. Roan, as the shyer of the two twins, is thrown into the deep end and has many trials of his own to overcome on his way to becoming a Mage.
During the time of Roan learning to be a mage there are darker machinations in the background and we are reminded that the world Roan and Lia live in is far larger than either has previously conceived. Both twins now have more freedom to travel Vertiga, with very different ways to travel at their disposal. This allows us as readers to appreciate Vertiga, as The Red Mage was a large story set in a smaller location. In Sugar Glass a dark magic has risen whose source is untraceable has started to appear in isolated locations, destroying everything in its path. Is this caused by something new in the world and will the Mages be able to stop this before it is too late?
Sugar Glass is also a story of loss, there is not one character that features prominently that hasn’t been through some trauma, either during the story or mentioned from a character’s past. This allows the characters to become stronger after learning the lessons that came from these tragedies. This is not to say that there are easy solutions, but credible human stories set in the fantastic.
I really enjoy the world that Pip Janssen has created, her characters are strong and believable in a world of magic, with the later parts of this story weaved nicely into what you may have read in The Red Mage. Vertiga is a world where there is fluidity to people’s sexuality that does not seem to be frowned upon in any level of society, neither does there seem to be racism, sexism or gender inequality. This does not make it a perfect world or unbelievable, as both books focus on class discrimination. As Sugar Glass focuses mostly on the Mage and ruling classes we get a different view of the inequalities than are seen in The Red Mage. If this is not the last story of Vertiga it will be interesting to see what new dangers Pip Janssen can throw at her characters, or if a new book will again introduce new focal characters.
Review by Michelle Herbert
8.5/10 from 1 reviews
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