Princess of Glass
by Jessica Day George
In this sequel to The Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess Poppy is sent off to a foreign country to help smooth the political stresses that her family curse kicked up in the last book. For the first time, she’s running off without her twin, or any other member of her family, and it turns out that her castle isn’t the only one that comes with curses.
This Cinderella retelling comes with the usual things – masquerades, glass slippers, and midnight bells – and a few unusual things: love spells, knitted bracelets and herbal concoctions to keep Princes safe, wicked witches, and doors in the fireplace. I enjoyed it for those small surprises, and if it stuck close to the familiar lines of the story, it also smartly decided to follow a main character that was not Cinderella herself.
Jinn had been warning people about the dangers of carelessness since he was six years old, and his little brother had almost run full-tilt into the stove while trying to tie bows in the dog’s tail. By the time he was ten, he had practiced to the point that he could summon a three-minute lecture after a single breath.
When he was thirteen, it had easily slipped to five minutes, and he could walk at the same time, to chase down his siblings as they tried to escape.
Deorsa turned her horse around, kicked forward and rode away quickly, calling orders as she thundered down the left side of her army. Tiernan turned as well, working his way down the other side of the line, and slowly, carefully, they turned everyone back. It took an hour to work their way back up the pass to a place where they could all sprawl out between the rocks.
“Make camp,” Tiernan told them. It was the first time he saw hesitation among them. Wesson looked at him sideways and paused before he relayed the order. Ava ran her horse in an extra circle around the others, and for a moment, Tiernan doubted she would stop. They didn’t come here to stay bottled in the pass.
But they settled in, drove tent stakes into the ground, and stripped gear off the horses.
Tiernan set up his own tent, to the right of the pavilion they had been using for all the business of traveling. Deorsa took her place to the left of it, and the rest of the camp was set out in squared lines from its corners. Tiernan laid his packs down against one canvas wall, but where no one else could see them, he left them tied and packed.
Kedra sat with her back against the padded arm of the couch, her arms draped loosely in her lap. She leaned her head against the high back, and her feet dangled over the edge, knees bent and legs lazily tangled. She hadn’t moved much since she sat down. She resettled her elbows from time to time, or played with the torn edge on one of the cushions, but otherwise, she just breathed, long slow breaths, in and out, as she watched him work the strings between his fingers.
He worked knot after knot, slowly shaping the rope, and didn’t move much either. The minutes slipped by, and the lamp flickered on the table, and then next time he looked up, her lips were turned up at the corners.
Jon smiled back instantly, glad to see her relaxed. It had been weeks since she sat with him like this, weeks since he could remember her sitting anywhere at all.
Returning his attention to the strings in his hands, he murmured, “What are you thinking?”
Kedra took a little faster breath, ready to answer, then she paused. “Nothing,” she whispered.
It was just a smile, already half-formed on his lips before he saw her over the head of the others packing the street.
It was just a reaction, surprise at meeting someone’s eye in the anonymous rush, a pleasant cover for the awkwardness of being singled out and spotted.
Answering questions in the only socially acceptable form of schizophrenia
Flip the Otter searched: How do the Sea Clans deal with the impoverished in their society, orphans, widows, and the physically or mentally disabled?
The Sea Clans are based strongly in community cooperation and family ties.
Because of the fact that a majority of the Clansmen and -women are sailors from the age of ten to seventy, “home,” “family,” and “community” become broader concepts than among the land-dwellers. A single person of average means may have housing on one ship and two to six islands, depending on how many their ship regularly sails between. She holds an employment contract with her ship’s captain, and may hold more flexible spoken agreements for work on any island that she regularly visits. Her “home” is self-defined (perhaps the place where she was born, perhaps her ship, perhaps the island that she finds the most comfortable, etc.). Her “community” is a rotating combination of the men and women she sails with, the permanent residents of every island she lives on, and the shifting population of sailors that light on those islands. Her “family” may be any blood-related relative, any crewmate she currently sails with or has sailed with before, anyone she shares lodging with on any island, or any combination there of.
Inside the Clans, it’s shameful (from an outside perspective) and heart-breaking (from an inside perspective) to leave any member of your “family” uncared for, and because of the broad nature of the term, it’s nearly impossible to find someone without a network of people they can depend upon. As a general rule, the first family member to discover a problem – whether a child is not being adequately clothed or fed, an injured family member can no longer work, or an elder can no longer care for themselves – is responsible for providing assistance. If they are incapable, they are responsible for contacting another family member who has the resources they lack.
Lea’s little sister had spent nine tenths of her life with her head tilted back, sedately keeping a watch on the stars.
When Lea was small, and Vecca was very small, Lea had thought her head was just too heavy to hold up. Vecca would push herself up, sit up straight, try to look ahead, and her too-round, too-big head would roll too-far. She looked at blank ceilings. She looked at the skittering leaves in the trees and empty blue skies. She looked at the star-spattered black. Her eyes were always wide as they would go. She was lost and thunderstruck about it, as only babies could be.
Vecca learned to crawl, learned to stand, learned to totter around and her head stopped being the heaviest bit of her. She lost her wide-eyed look. Oddly earnest, oddly serious, she still looked up at the stars, and from time to time, scrunched her eyebrows together suspiciously. Lea laughed about it.
Tomorrow, I will be helping my little sister, Neekers move into her dorm room. It seemed like it would be a long time in coming. In some ways, it has been. In other ways, it’s been like sleeping and finding that someone ran off with the clock and the calendar.
But before I let the thieves run too far, there are a few things that need to be said. Really, they need to be written down, so that they don’t disappear somewhere.
1. I’m the one who carried you into the house the day that we brought you home from the hospital. I don’t know why Mom and Dad let me. I was seven-almost-eight and I had already skinned every elbow and knee I owned walking down that same sidewalk. They had a perfectly good eleven-year-old and a perfectly good fourteen-year-old, either one of which could have done the job. I sort of imagine myself grabbing you and bolting, like I’d gotten the last cookie from the cookie jar.
Believe me, bumblers,
If I had the energy,
I would decimate
(Now, imagine a lazy, sharp glare, because that doesn’t take too much effort.)
The first night in the mountain pass was already chillier than the previous night spent down in the plains. The air felt a little lighter on their faces and the ground was harder under their sleeping mats, but there were more of them as well. With nearly five hundred climbing the slope and bedding down under the black sky, there were enough fires burning to keep everyone warm. With so many of them, the camp grew quiet after dark, but never turned under into silence. Whoever held the watch could hear one or two people behind him that weren’t ready for sleep, or who were done with it for now.
It took twenty-three days to come out on the other side of the mountains, and no one complained for the unspoken press that kept their feet moving.
Tiernan had never seen so many move so smoothly.
Watching Deorsa with her troops, he knew it was mostly her doing. She liked to joke with them, liked to trade conversations whip-crack quick, smart and bright and easy. There wasn’t time to complain around her. She didn’t have the energy to waste on it when she could be smiling and giving the man beside her an elbow-nudge over the way he’d nearly fallen off his horse at the sight of a frilled lizard. She gave her orders like an older sister. Everyone around her followed as if she had eloquently convinced them of her purpose, not shouted five words over her shoulder with a grin.
But he only needed to look at the faces of his eighty to know why they moved so quickly. If it had been possible, their wills would have grown them wings.