The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove
My age recommendation: upper middle grade through young adult.
Novel’s strongest point: Amazing premise and unrivaled descriptive abilities for a contemporary work while keeping a tight pace.
A bit about…
Take a modern world-map and crumple it in your hand. Then pretend each wrinkle is a territory border, and each section has split into a different time. This is what really happens in The Glass Sentence though a Great Disruption in 1789 that threw all continents into different time periods, different eras coexisting in a chaotic mix and match of generations and historical epochs. In this world, explorers and cartologers (who study maps and mapmaking) are heroes. Shadrack Elli, a cartologer, has has learned the art of making memory maps that immerse the reader right into actual moments though touch, scent, and sounds. His niece, Sophia Tims, is raised by Shadrack because her parents were explorers who disappeared when she was a small child. But unlike Shadrack, Spophia has no internal clock and is unfastened by time. For Sophia, one minute can feel like an hour, hours can pass in a moment.
Shadrack and Sophia’s adventures start in Boston, 1891, after Shadrack is kidnapped by people who want to use his abilities to find a mythical Map of the World. They believe that changing that map will send the world back to its original (and true) course. Shadrack leaves behind a glass map and a clue (hence, the glass sentence) that will aid Sophia in finding him. Accompanied by a mysterious boy and a pair of sibling pirates, they must find another famous cartologer, the only person who can help them find the Map of the World. All this before it is too late, because the world is still changing and the eras continue to move.
S.E. Grove’s The Glass Sentence is so very inventive. As a gemologist, I love details, and Grove has created such an amazing, intricate world with adventure, I’ve fallen in love with her variety of maps! From its intriguing, beautiful see-through cover that looks like a map with a mystery behind it, to her concept of different kinds of maps coming together to change a world, her gripping adventures and characters helped me dance throughout history to the end of the novel.
There are very dark elements that prove intense, so I would be very cautious with younger or sensitive readers. That said, her world-building and crazy inventiveness with the concept won me over. Reading this was like how I imagine a visit to the Hermitage Museum would be—so many layers of history, such intense colors and beauty, a world of ice in the winter, and yet warm with amazing memories within.
The resilience factor:
One of my favorite parts about Sophia is her tenacity in the face of her uncle’s disappearance and her ability to sort facts while being sensitive to her environment and open to possibilities. All of these traits are so important when you encounter real-life trials so I just love the path the main characters take. I don’t like the ugliness of the scary characters, and the slight dip into too much darkness. I do sympathize with Grove’s wish to help kids encounter darkness so they know to avoid it, and use their wits and wisdom to figure the path forward. If you’re looking for an adventurous book to set your kids’ imaginations alive, it’s like seeing the best IMAX movie ever. It is amazing!