The Palace of Glass is book three in Django Wexler’s Forbidden Library series for middle grade readers. And I find myself, once again, with the problem of trying to introduce a series to you with the middle book. I’m going to try and review this book without spoiling the series, but just in case I want to tell you that you should absolutely read it. These are excellent middle grade novels. Django Wexler skyrocketed to my favorite authors list last year, going from totally unknown to favorite in the course of a few books and this charming series is one of the reasons why.
The basic premise of the series is that Alice, after being orphaned by a shipwreck, goes to live with her uncle Geryon. Geryon, it just so happens is a master magician called a Reader and it turns out that Alice has the potential to become one herself. Readers draw magic from the written word and use books as portals to other worlds where they make bargains with, or control, the magical creatures there. They can also create what is called a prison book, and if a magical creature is defeated in the prison book then the Reader can call upon the power of that creature at any time.
So now that you have that, in this book Alice is seeking revenge against the person she knows is responsible for the shipwreck which killed her father and goes seeking for a very strong prison book in order to trap this fiend. Along the way she meets a few more magical creatures, and learns that her revenge may have devastating consequences if carried out.
There are a lot of things that I love about this series, the first being that you are really never sure who you can trust. While Alice does make allies, some of them may be untrustworthy ones with their own agendas. Her teacher, Geryon, is a Reader and Readers are not good people in general, except that it’s hinted that the Readers may have a compelling reason for their cruelty.
The world building is another reason these books are so good. The various Libraries and the worlds they contain with in them are well thought out. Everything fits together, and while Alice (and we the reader) are slowly introduced to the world there are strong indications that the world is so much more then what we see.
I also love the real sense of danger present in these books. People die in these books and not just parents who have to die to give their children a reason to be heroes, but people with whom Alice has formed alliances. Her adventures are dangerous, and it’s wise to not forget that. This book didn’t make that quite so strongly known as the last book (The Mad Apprentice), but the danger is still present.
But mostly I love that Alice is allowed to make mistakes. I mean when push comes to shove, she’s the protagonist, but a good deal of the danger in this book comes because she made a mistake. She has to learn from the mistake, and more then that she needs to learn why she made that mistake and overcome that particular trait.
My one complaint with this book is that it felt rushed. This was originally supposed to be a five book series, but it’s been shortened to four and I think this book is the one that absorbed most of the material from the fourth book. It kind of has two different plot lines and two different big bads. There isn’t quite enough plot for two books, and I suspect that if there had been a second book made from this plot line that this imaginary fourth (out of five) book would have been very similar to book two of the series. But there is just enough of a squeeze that I can see where this nonexistent fourth book would have been.
At any rate, I am very much looking forward to the actual book four of the series and the conclusion. I highly recommend this series.