I recently read Gordon Dahlquist’s The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, and my opinion is summarized by my title.
It was a slog.
With a length of 750 pages, there are only 10 chapters. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the feeling of accomplishment received by completing a chapter.
The book starts off by grabbing the attention, introducing the reader to Miss Temple, a woman in her mid-twenties who was raised on a plantation, and seems somewhat savage to the English Victorian society she has recently joined as she waits for her fiance to wed her so they can culminate their relationship in some real savagery. Except… Roger, her fiance, decides to end their engagement, instead. He doesn’t really tell her why, and it drives her crazy. Not because she loved him – dear me, she’s stronger than that, don’t be ridiculous! – but just because she needs to know the reason why.
There is also the man ubiquitously known as “Cardinal,” “Chang,” or a combination of the two, due to terrible scars around his eyes that affect his eyesight, and also because people suck and are racist.
Rounding up our trio of protagonists (because I certainly will not call them heroes) is Dr. Svenson, physician to the prince of Macklenburg, a country I am fairly certain is fictional. He’s pining over his lost love, a beautiful cousin who became ill and died long before this novel started, and working for a man he neither respects nor likes, but is doing his best to keep this shit show short-lived via copious smoking.
This novel reads like a sensational action film. It has erotic undertones! It has violence! It has plot twists galore! The manner in which Dahlquist writes feels as though he is narrating a movie rather than writing a novel.
While some readers may, admittedly, find this writing style amusing, it struck me as… Not enough. At first, it’s exciting, but there is not enough of a story. It all feels like insinuation and sex and karate chops. The main characters are obviously supposed to be endearing, but I have no idea why, to be frank, I should be interested. They also seem to survive nearly insurmountable obstacles solely because the author loves them and considers them “the good guys.” The same actions that are deplored from our villains are supposed to be applauded in our heroes. The story doesn’t quite fit together, and while I continued reading, it was more out of a sense of obligation than a sense that the story might actually get better.
And don’t even hope that you’ll ever find out how the glass books are made, as all you will get is pseudo-science and the hint that some dude knows how to perform alchemy.
Thumbs down, negative stars, and a waste of my time.
Have you read it? Agree? Disagree?