064 – All Just Glass by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

All Just Glass cover Sarah Vida has given up everything for love. From a legendary family of vampire-hunting witches, Sarah was raised to never trust a vampire, to never let her guard down, and to avoid all tricky attachments of the heart. But now Sarah IS a vampire – changed by the boy she thought she loved. Her family has forsaken her, and Sarah herself is disgusted by her appetite for blood.Adia Vida is Sarah’s older sister, the good, reliable sibling who always does her family proud. But when Aida’s mother insists that Sarah be found and killed, Adia is given the one assignment that she may not be able to carry out.

Taking place over just twenty-four hours, ALL JUST GLASS tells the story of a game-changing battle that will forever change the world of the Den of Shadows. And at its center is the story of two sisters who must choose between love and duty. Dark, fully-imagined, and hard to put down, ALL JUST GLASS will thrill Amelia’s fans—old and new.
Oh God, that cover. That cover is so awful I don’t even know – Amy’s books started out with good covers, but it seems like lately they just get awful, cheap Photoshop job after awful, cheap Photoshop job. It hurts my brain to see “Sarah”- who is clearly the same girl as the “Adia”, despite the fact that they’re not twins – with that pouty look on her face, somewhere between infantile and seductive, because it totally misrepresents the nature of the character. Combined with the drab color palate, sketchy extractions, sub-par photo quality, and eye-bleedingly terrible font styling… Ugh. Bad cover. Baaaaaaaaad.

Blah, sorry. Had to get that out of the system. On to the review!

I’ve loved Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ writing since I was eleven years old. I spent the better part of my teenage years on an Amelia Atwater-Rhodes message board, learning about and immersing myself in the world she’d created. Thus, her books are kinda a huge nostalgia bomb for me, and I might get a little more satisfaction out of them books than your average Jane off the street.

Now that being said, I wasn’t wild about Persistence of Memory, and to be totally honest, Shattered Mirror was my second-least favorite of the DoS series. So I don’t think bias totally clouds my judgement on the subject.

With all that in mind, I kind of loved this book.

Warning: spoilers abound for Shattered Mirror.

While I hadn’t exactly been pining for a follow-up to Sarah’s tale, I do like what Atwater-Rhodes did with it. Shattered Mirror ended with Sarah, a teenaged witch and vampire hunter, being turned into a vampire herself by twin brothers that she’d both been hunting and befriending. Being the daughter of a woman who is essentially queen of the witches – witch, in Amy’s world, being near synonymous with “vampire hunter” – this created a lot complications, not only for Sarah, but for her family as well. And as All Just Glass shows us, what creates complications for the Vida family creates complications for the rest of witch society.

The great part of All Just Glass is that we get to see all of these complications, and the way that they unravel the lives of many of the characters involved. AJG isn’t just about Sarah as she comes to terms with her new life as a vampire. Instead, the narrative flips between Sarah’s new life and the lives of her friends and family as they deal with her “death”. The driving force behind the plot is the hunt that Sarah’s mother, Dominique, calls for to exact revenge on Sarah’s “murderers” – as well as Sarah, herself. The “Right of Kin” that she declares compels every last remaining witch to assist in Dominque’s quest for vengeance, and has far-reaching consequences, both politically – for vampires and witches – and personally, for the five remaining hunters whose duty it is to find and kill someone that they used to know and love.

One of my very favorite aspects of Atwater-Rhodes’s writing has always been this really in-depth, complex, world that she’s created. Every supernatural race, every family line, every organization, every individual character, has volumes of history behind them that color their present-day relationships, interactions, and decisions. This, in turn, affects the political workings and developments that we see in All Just Glass. It’s a really cool thing, if you’re familiar with the world, to see characters that other books have mentioned in passing, out and about living their lives and affecting the lives of our current protagonists.

Better yet, AJG shows us not just more of, but a different side to some of the characters and organizations that we’ve previously read about. For example, we get a peek inside how the organization SingleEarth actually works, how it manages to function as a neutral zone in such a combative world. The primary focus is the day-to-day lives of the vampire-hunting witches, which I particularly enjoyed, since they’ve remained by and large the one-dimensional fanatical assholes of Amelia’s world.

On the other hand, I can imagine that for someone who wasn’t familiar with the series, or even just not recently familiar with them, this could all seem very confusing. Characters, names, lines, and political affiliations are thrown around, and though attempts are made to explain who they are and what everything means, AJG is still prone to moments of confusion. It could potentially overwhelm, and even turn off a reader new to the world.

The other problem with this is, all of those necessary character explanations? Yeah, they can clutter the text something awful. While I occasionally needed the reminder of, say, who the Arun or Marinitch witches were and what made them different, the bouts of exposition required to share this information could be a bit dry, and weren’t terribly well integrated in to the overall narrative.

I did have issues with the writing here and there. It’s sufficient, if not wholly engaging, but there was some awkward phrasing, the aforementioned clunky exposition, a few instances of wince-inducing melodrama, and what I’m going to assume are editing issues, where it seems like entire scenes were set up and then skipped (example: Sarah’s shopping trip with Kendra).

Despite that, though, I enjoyed what the book offered. The new look in to the lives of the world’s most feared vampire hunters was compelling. For many books, we’ve been given a very distinct portrayal of not only Dominique Vida, but witch vampire hunters in general: they’re cold, calculating, and zealously devoted to their mission of killing all vampires. All Just Glass‘s primary goal is exposing the people behind that zealotry.

The themes seem to be an extension of those in Shattered Mirror – there’s a lot of ambiguity, a lot of moral and personal gray area that the characters have to come to terms with, after a lifetime of being raised with a very clear-cut idea of perfection. While its conveyance isn’t exactly, er, subtle – Adia goes out of her way to emphasize several times how it’s “impossible to be perfect”, just in case you missed it – and the themes themselves aren’t exactly new or groundbreaking, they’re applicable and relevant to the characters and their development, on both sides of the aisle. It ties the book together.

I found each of the characters quite interesting – well, scratch that. I found each of the character’s struggles interesting, for what they contributed to the overall story. Each wrestled in a different way with their failure to live up to others’ expectations, and I liked how the characters idolized one another as shining examples of a perfection that none of them were truly able to achieve.

I’ll admit though – to get spoilery and specific – that the revelation of Dominique Vida as a rebellious wild child in her youth was quite unexpected. I was genuinely take by surprise, there, perhaps because for the past ten books, she’s represented the ultimate in dispassionate discipline and control. But I have to admit, upon reflection, the revelation was just a mite cliche – the tale of the super-strict mother whose past reveals her to be a hypocrite, who didn’t want her daughters to make the mistakes she had is one we’ve seen a thousand times before. Iunno, I guess I kind of wanted the skeleton in Dominique Vida’s closet to be significantly more badassed than teenage drama.

Struggles aside, the hunters themselves kind of ended up being bland and serious-face same-y. Despite being one of the few whose POV we never read from, Jay Marinitch was the only character with any semblance of memorable personality. I’d like to know more about him in the future.

If anyone got the short stick in AJG, though, it was Sarah and her vampire crew. Granted, they did have the bulk of Shattered Mirror to themselves, but any substantial development of Sarah’s future as a vampire was ignored in favor of the Right of Kin crisis. Sarah did have moments in which the story focused on her as she learned to deal with her vampire needs, but otherwise we were only given glimpses and hints of what her life might end up being like. I would’ve liked to see more of that – more of Sarah sorting out her relationship with Kris, establishing a path for herself, more of her getting to know the vampire world. It seemed as though the book wanted to go there, but was impeded by the “24-hour” time frame, and perhaps the page count.

The 24-hour thing, by the way, is an aspect that I only learned about after I’d completed the book. NGL, I totally ignore pre-chapter time or date stamps, so I had no idea that this was supposed to take place over the course of a day. Apparently, this was pretty trying on that suspension of disbelief for some readers. I can understand in a way, because it’s difficult to believe that all this could happen within the time period given, or Hell, even why it needed to happen on such a tight schedule in the first place. On the other hand, it doesn’t cost anyone anything to just ignore the goddamn time stamp, and it’s not a good enough reason to discount the book entirely.

At any rate, what little we did see of Sarah’s life, I enjoyed. You do get a sense, more and more, of her growing acceptance of the vampirism. The transition is not entirely painless; she doesn’t just magically adjust, nor does she develop magical newborn vampire impulse control. It’s hard. You see how her need battles with her pride, how she slips, how she hurts people, and what that means to her. While it would have been nicer if this had taken place over a longer period of time, it’s still nice to see the struggle. It makes her eventual acceptance of it more meaningful.

I also liked the way Atwater-Rhodes handled Sarah’s relationship with Kristopher. I take it as kind of a pointed jab at the the prevailing YA attitude that she and Krisopher share the notion that their relationship is not what either of them intended for it to be. To quote, “As it was, they had never even managed a successful date before their romance had gone the way of Romeo and Juliet’s – except that Romeo and Juliet didn’t wake up the next day, leave the crypt, and say ‘Now what?'”

Kris never intended for Sarah to be his immortal bride – he’d have bloodbonded her at best. But now her “life” is over and they’re tied together, forever, in part because of his actions. He wants to help and be supportive, but secretly fears being burdened with her, especially seeing as how they barely know each other. For her part, Sarah is quite frank about how she never intended to die for their relationship, and wants to begin her new life away from Kris and Nikolas before they go further. She didn’t become a vampire for the sake of staying someone’s girlfriend.

high five
Stay awesome, Amy
You see? This is it goes, people, not sunshine and lollipops and TWU WUV 4EVA!!!

Also, I gotta admit, the allusions to a polyamorous relationship between her, Kris, and Nikolas was kinda hot XDD

In the end, I had a better time with this book that I’ve had with a book in months. I fell right back in to Atwater-Rhodes’ world, but unlike my last foray in, this one felt like it had more to offer. The world was further developed, the plot was tense and driven (and OMG not romance-focused!), the characters were strong, but flawed, and seeing the consequences of their actions affect this big, cohesive world that she’s built up was so much fun.

If you’re a fan of Amy’s previous works, even if you’re not the biggest fan of Chris and Sarah, this one is definitely worth a read. If you’re not, I’d say start go back and read the first four Den of Shadows books, because they’re a better introduction. But do make it back to this one eventually. You’re definitely missing out on something awesome if you don’t.

Three and a half stars.

three stars


 

2 Responses

  1. Varsha Dinesh

    May 10, 2012 5:20 am, Reply

    I came across Shattered Mirror when I was googling books with boy twins in it, and the next day I find a review on your blog for the sequel! Gotta read this now, coz I don’t believe in coincidences. And ooh, yes. What a terrible cover. Love the feel of your blog though. And it’s really nice to see people taking reviewing seriously and going in depth with a book. Long reviews rock 🙂

    • Kayla + Cyna

      May 11, 2012 3:51 am, Reply

      It’s definitely a sign from the universe! 😀 I really hope you do look them up, because it’s a world very worth getting in to.

      And thanks for the compliment! We do our best to get across the “why” as concisely as possible, but, well…our concise is a little wordier than most ^^;

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