In her debut novel last year, Nevertell, Katharine Orton took us into the past of a Soviet prison camp and deep into a mystical world of it’s surrounding forests occupied by ghosts, wolves and eerie folklore set against a background of a soul-shattering war. This theme has been transported to post-war England as she takes us now into the heart of Dartmoor, through beautiful stained-glass and into awaiting magic….
author: Katharine Orton
cover illustration: Sandra Dieckmann
Walker Books (5 November 2020)
Since she was orphaned by an explosion during the war, Nona has lived with Uncle Antoni, the only one who would take her in. A kindly stained-glass craftsman, Antoni has made Nona his apprentice and they bring new, vibrant light and life into shattered shells of the windows in war-torn buildings. But one night, their work takes a sinister turn as they arrive at a ruined church on the moors of Dartmoor. Nona realises that Uncle Antoni is under a fierce spell and the only way to free him from the enchantment is to run head-long into a world of spirits, magic and a dangerous prophecy. She befriends an imp, Castor and creates uneasy alliances with spirit helpers along the way, but the soulless Rattlesticks and a menacing spirit, the Soldier are tracking her every move, threatening to twist fate and turn her into one of them. What is the Soldier really after and can Nona survive his wild, overwhelming magic?
First of all, let me say what a wonderful story this is; full of mystery, adventure, feeling and wonder. Once again, Katharine Orton tells a tale that weaves effortlessly between the echoes of history and a world that we would like to believe exists only in the imagination. The world-building here is so astute that the reader is filled with the texture of both worlds, plummeting along across the moors in the company of the legends and folktales that have seemingly created them as a place where they bleed together, beckoning and taunting us at the same time. A beautifully crafted landscape, believable and heartfelt characters, wild, unpredictable magic and a plot filled with twists and turns that lead the way through a journey of courage, loyalty and hope in a land of dreams and nightmares.
But Katharine does something a little bit more here. She tells us, not actually a war story, but a story of the after-effects of war and tragedy on the hearts and minds of those who may be seen as collateral damage. In both the real and imagined worlds. It reveals how these things hang on to us and follow us throughout life; maybe throughout generations. Maybe these are the things that bring the folklore and legends to life in each one of us, and not always in a positive way. Maybe they make us what we are. There is a strong sense of the courage, belief and insight it takes to come to terms with the past and the magic that lies underneath and understand it as we grow and move into the future. The subtlety of this part of the story cannot be underestimated in its’ power. It is fragile, but it carries with it incredible strength.
Utterly enchanting, deeply mysterious and filled with the echoes of folklore.
I want to thank Walker Books for sending me the review copy of Glassheart (and previously, Nevertell.) What a wondrous, magical gift!