Published: August 1st 2013 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror. Pen’s reflected twin is the only girl who really understands her.
Then Parva is abducted and Pen makes a terrible bargain for the means to track her down. In London-Under-Glass looks are currency, and Pen’s scars make her a rare and valuable commodity. But some in the reflected city will do anything to keep Pen from the secret of what happened to the sister who shared her face.
Sequels! They’re so hard to read, what with the agonising fear that they won’t live up to the first book, the book that started the love affair, and will instead shatter our everything inside us. Nope, it’s just me that feels that way? Hmmmmm.
It doesn’t matter, because Tom Pollock writes a mind-blowing sequel with The Glass Republic, adding spice to the story he began in The City’s Son by switching protagonists and introducing a previously unexplored aspect of his alternate-world London. I loved going behind the mirrors and getting to know London-under-Glass. Not only is it exotic and interesting, it’s obvious that Pollock has invested a lot of thought and time into how the world inside mirrors would be similar or different to our own. Everything – the politics, the social structure, the weather, the architecture – is reimagined brilliantly. I think my favourite part of reading this book was immersing myself in this new world.
The Glass Republic examines what it means to be pretty or not: the things that made Pen an outcast in our world make her the most beautiful person in the mirror-world. Symmetry, which is seen as beautifying here, is abhorred there and people with asymmetrical faces make up the aristocracy. It could have become preachy or political, but instead the issue weaves itself into the story line seamlessly (no pun intended) with the introduction of Espel, the steeplejill, and the rebellion of the Faceless.
I loved Pen in the last book, and I was excited to read this book because it’s written from her perspective. Seeing Beth and Pollock’s alternate London from Pen’s eyes is great because I’d gotten used to the world but then Pen reminded me how alien Pollock’s London is. And then she goes behind the mirrors and the world gets even wackier.
Pen was always dependant on Beth but the events of the last book made her stronger, more independent. She’s still struggling without Beth by her side though, and doesn’t really know she is without her best friend and champion. But since Beth is off filling in for Filius, and dealing with the effects of her mysterious transformation, Pen has to go it alone. She gets bullied horribly at school. It involved someone setting fire to Pen’s hijab and made me uncomfortable because of how real it seemed. Pen has to find strength inside herself throughout this book, to not be defined but what anyone else thinks of her, and I found it uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. Pen’s courage is the stuff people write about for generations.
The Glass Republic has opened up Pollock’s London in unexpected and glorious ways, and will leave readers desperately wanting the next volume, Our Lady of the Streets. This urban fantasy series is one of the best I’ve ever read, unlike anything else out there, and I encourage everyone to pick up The City’s Son and give it a go!