In Venice in 1487, the secrets of glassblowing are guarded jealously. Renzo, a twelve-year-old laborer in a glassworks, has just a few months to prepare for a test of his abilities, and no one to teach him. If he passes, he will qualify as a skilled glassblower. If he fails, he will be expelled from the glassworks. Becoming a glassblower is his murdered father’s dying wish for him, and the means of supporting his mother and sister. But Renzo desperately needs another pair of hands to help him turn the glass as he practices at night.
One night he is disturbed by a bird—a small falcon—that seems to belong to a girl hiding in the glassworks. Soon Renzo learns about her and others like her—the bird people, who can communicate with birds and are condemned as witches. He tries to get her to help him and discovers that she comes with baggage: ten hungry bird-kenning children who desperately need his aid. Caught between devotion to his family and his art and protecting a group of outcast children, Renzo struggles for a solution that will keep everyone safe in this atmospheric adventure.
I was really excited to be reading another book by Susan Fletcher, considering how fondly I remember DRAGON’S MILK and SHADOW SPINNER, two of her other books.
It was cool, first off, to have read a book with a guy POV from Fletcher. Both SS and DM had girl POVs, and I liked the experience of seeing the world from Renzo’s eyes and a guy’s point of view.
Building on that, I loved Renzo. I thought he was a cool guy. I really liked his personality and the way he grew over the course of the story. I think that the choices and situations Fletcher puts her characters into really display the character’s true nature one way or another, and that’s something I really like about her writing.
Another thing I really like about her writing is the way she sets up analogies and backgrounds. Her analogies aren’t quite as impressive as to say they’re that of L.J. Smith and Jay Kristoff, but I truly enjoy them because of how well I understand them most of the time. And her world-building is quite unique and fascinating every single time I read one of her stories.
It was a great experience going back to Venice in this story. It’s a place I haven’t really explored yet in writing. All I know of it really in the fictional literary sense is Cornelia Funke’s books. I was very impressed by this story and was quite satisfied by the ending. A great read, although sometimes it had some rough patches in the pacing for me. 4.5 stars.
pg count for the hardback: 320