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Friday, June 11, 2010

'The Glass Demon' by Helen GRANT

Received from the publisher

From the BLURB:

The first death: Seventeen-year-old Lin Fox finds a body in an orchard. As she backs away in horror, she steps on broken glass.

The second death: Then blood appears on her doorstep – blood, and broken glass.

The third death: Something terrible is found in the cemetery. Shards of broken glass lie by a grave.

Who will be next? As the attacks become more sinister, Lin doesn’t know who to trust. She’s getting closer to the truth behind these chilling discoveries, but with each move the danger deepens.

Because someone wants Lin gone – and won’t give up until he’s got rid of her and her family. Forever.

This is Helen Grant’s second book. I loved her first, ‘The Vanishing of Katharina Linden’. With ‘The Glass Demon’ Helen Grant has fast become a ‘must-buy’ author for me.

Lin and her family move to Germany when her father, a self-important medieval professor, is given a chance at academic celebrity. Dr. Oliver Fox has been offered to head an expedition to locate the legendary ‘Allerheiligen glass’. As the story goes, in the dark ages there was an artist called Gerhard Remisch who created such realistic stained-glass representations of the Devil that people thought his creations were aided by a demon.
For hundreds of years the Allerheiligen glass has been lost; but if located could fetch for millions of dollars and guarantee the finder infamy (and a reputation à la Indiana Jones). But the windows are also said to be cursed by the demon, Bonschariant, depicted within the stained colours.
Lin’s family; her stepmother Tuesday, sister Polly, half-brother Ru and father all relocate to the run-down castle Kreuzburg nestled in the middle of a black forest. And from the moment of the Fox family’s arrival, strange happenings occur. Lin discovers a dead body in an orchard, glass surrounding the corpse. There’s a mysterious fire in the Kreuzburg. And the locals all seem reluctant and wary of the professor and his quest for the cursed glass.

Helen Grant is a very different crop of YA author. She revels in storytelling, and is less inclined to write ‘flash in the pan’ helter-skelter rollercoaster rides than dark Gothic ‘thinkers’. She seems to have more patience and belief in her YA readership – so she’s not afraid to set a languid pace and let the clues reveal themselves and the mystery unfurl.

The mysterious and disturbing occurrences come very early on in ‘The Glass Demon’ (like Lin discovering a dead body on the first page) – but the actual mystery itself is a brain-teaser and a real ‘whodunnit’. Lin is our narrator, and as she remains in the dark about the suspicious goings on relating to her father’s expedition, readers are also none the wiser. But like I said, Grant is quite a masterful storyteller. She teases out the plot, preferring a relaxed pace but with heavy doses of foreshadowing thrown in. In ‘The Glass Demon’ we learn very early on that Lin’s sister, Polly, dies.

I didn’t believe in demons; I ranked them with ghosts and vampires and werewolves, as products of a fevered imagination, or phenomenon with a perfectly rational explanation. I did not realize yet, that summer when I was seventeen, and my sister Polly was still alive, when the sun was shining and even the wind was warm, and my whole body was restless, that there are worse things than being stuck in a small town for a year. There *are* demons, and they are more terrible than we can imagine.

From page 29 we learn about Polly’s upcoming demise - so even if the plot is slow to unravel, Grant gifts readers with these crumbs of foreboding that are sure to grab our attention and keep us turning the page, no matter what.

Then there’s the fact that Helen Grant’s writing is simply a delight to read. In ‘The Glass Demon’ she has a lot of fun with family dynamics – or rather, dysfunctional family dynamics. Lin is a very perceptive seventeen-year-old and her family are fodder for her wry observations. Her stepmother, Tuesday, is egocentric and vain and completely oblivious to how well she lives up to her ‘evil stepmother’ shtick. Lin’s father, Dr. Oliver Fox, is a self-important academic whose quest for glory leaves him completely oblivious (or uncaring) to the inherent dangers of his investigations. This is one messed up family, but there’s such voyeuristic pleasure to be gained from Lin’s cynical remarks about them.

Like ‘The Vanishing of Katharina Linden’, this book is set in Germany. I think the Deutsch setting lends a certain ‘Brothers Grimm’ gothic feel to the book – as though it is set in a Hansel & Gretel-esque fairytale.
And then the actual story of the Allerheiligen glass is spine-chillingly haunting. It really does sound like something out of Indiana Jones or Brothers Grimm. The Allerheiligen glass legend is based on a true-story about the Steinfeld Abbey glass – though Grant has wonderfully embellished the demon mythology. And really, the demon is the crux of this book. Not to give anything away – but when you throw in a mysterious priest, spooked townsfolk, a nosy crone and a young white knight for Lin... well, things get interesting and spooky, to say the least.

I loved ‘The Glass Demon’. With this book Helen Grant cements herself as an author to watch. This is a complex, haunting and original YA novel – a Gothic mystery to tingle the spine keep you up at night.



  1. hmmm that sounds really cool =) Great review!

  2. Sounds very involved, but in a good way. I like the cover; not sure why though.

  3. The Glass Demon is one of those books I knew was going to be good right from the very first lines. In just two lines Grant effectively sets up a feeling of impending doom, and with the third sets up the first death - and thus the rest of the book. With such a strong opening, standards are high for the rest of the book. But Grant's elegant writing and careful plotting make for a page-turning novel that gets better and better with each chapter.


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