Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-7696-6 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-7698-0 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10
The wildly imaginative Brontë siblings might have invented Glass Town, an imaginary land of romance, intrigue, and splendid battles, but they have met their creative match as Valente brings it to vibrant fictional life in this novel. On the day that Charlotte and Emily are slated to go to the school where their elder sisters died, the four sibs—Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and brother Branwell—are instead whisked away to Glass Town. They are immediately embroiled in a battle where they realize that all of their choicest metaphoric language has been literalized: for instance, the French soldiers are frogs while the English are decked out in lime peel uniforms, and Boney himself (Napoleon) is a skeleton with rifles for arms. Branwell is soon killed but revived with a special concoction that is at the [End Page 41] heart of the ongoing battle; it ensures that Wellington’s soldiers never die, but its ingredients only grow on soil controlled by Bonaparte’s forces. Meanwhile, a spy of Boney’s, constructed of paper with writing that changes according to who’s reading it, has stolen a weapon from the real world that could change the fate of the war. Valente’s deep research combines elements from the Brontës’ lives as well as their fiction and poetry; quoted bits from Jane Eyre appear as Charlotte’s dialogue, for instance, and Emily teams up with a broody Byronic hero who is in fact Lord Byron himself. Since Glass Town is part of the Brontës’ juvenilia, all of the characters are in their teens, which allows great fun to be had with Anne’s imagined princess Victoria, who dreams of a far-off country called England over which she reigns. The marvelous world-building makes this a reader’s delight, especially for those familiar with the Brontës.