Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sisters of Glass

Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
150 pages
YA; Historical
3/5 stars

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I think it has been amply recorded on my blog that I adore sister-sister relationships so it was a no-brainer to request this book after seeing the title. I didn't need to know anything else. As an additional bonus, the author and I share a first name and I have been known to read books just because of that fact (see: Stephanie Laurens, Stephanie Perkins).

Due to only looking at the cover, I wasn't sure what to expect. Imagine my surprise to discover a historical novel set in Italy told in verse. Those three elements are not hugely popular in YA although there are amazing examples for each. I love historical novels, have no opinion about Italy, and am open to verse novels so that boded well for me. However I really struggled.

I felt like I was just dropped in to the world with little context to guide me. The story is set in Murano, the glass-making part of Italy, an island near Venice although I'm still not sure what the year is. Over the course of the book, we learn a bit but not nearly enough for my taste.

The thrust of the story is that first daughters are supposed to marry Senators, the chief politicians of the time, but in this family, the father was convinced that his second daughter should have that fate. This means the dowry is placed at her disposal and all of the family's resources will go toward making her a splendid match. That daughter is Maria who wishes to be a glassblower, not a wife while her older sister Giovanna, the beauty, wants that destiny and bristles against their father's breaking of tradition. The conflict between the sisters over this issue is a big part of the first book but they come together for the second part.

The plot is quite familiar. As stated Maria wants to be a glassblower and falls for their family apprentice despite his unsuitability. Meanwhile she becomes betrothed to a noble as wished by her father who is struck by her sister's beauty. If only the girls could change places! I found it very tired and called every plot turn. Of course, predictability is not a bad thing if redeemed by gorgeous writing and/or outstanding characterization.

While the novel is told in verse, it doesn't feel as poetic as other novels I've read in verse. It seemed like a prose story arranged on the page as if to convey the impression of verse. This was easy to read but it didn't blow me away. Furthermore the characters were average with little depth. As a sister, I was able to infuse those roles with some personality but they were all pretty flat.

Overall: Lacking in setting and characterization, this failed to impress me.

Cover: Very pretty and of course I love swirly fonts!


  1. Would it have been a better story if set out but not in verse?

  2. I wish the cover for this book was enough to make up for the things you didn't like in this book! I know how much you love books that explore the relationships between sisters (because I love them too!), but they're always harder to love if the characters aren't great. Although I'm glad you could at least imagine some more personality in them! :)

    Awesome honest review, B!

  3. I've never read a story told in verse. I don't think this is for me but not because of the verse. It just doesn't draw me in.


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