I actually saw this book the first time through the Amazon Vine program; I ended up getting it from the library instead, but the cover and book description intrigued me. I liked some parts of the book and disliked others; overall it ended up being an okay read. It was more a tale of people making bad decisions about love than a fantasy though; you should know that before you pick it up.
Most of the tale centers around a young girl Ida and a photographer Midas. Midas is very introverted and grew up on the island; while Ida is very monochromatic and extroverted, although at one time she was vibrant. Ida has a disease that she seems to have picked up when she visited the island, she is slowly turning to glass from the feet up. Midas is at first fascinated by the image her glass feet portray and then fascinated by Ida herself. Ida is dealing with the uncertainty of her illness, while Midas is dealing with his fright of people. The lives of numerous people weave in and out of their story. The book is full of people who regret choices they have made in their lives and full of people who have lost the loves of their life.
As you might guess from the description this is not a heartwarming book or a happy book. The majority of characters are incredibly depressed; the whole story is a bit monochromatic as all the characters are bleached of any positive emotion. Ida, despite her horrible affliction, is the greatest point of light in the whole novel. While the description of the book makes it seem like a fantasy, it really is not that at all. The book deals more with people’s past decisions and how those decisions affected their families; it also deals with how a life-threatening illness affects the people around you. There are mysterious happenings on the island but they are never explored, only briefly discussed, and are just accepted as part of the island.
The writing style is both good and bad. At times the descriptions are so beautiful as to be inspiring, at others the plot wanders a bit too much. Shaw bounces between present and past without much warning. The storyline is told from a number of characters’ viewpoints; which can get a bit confusing at times. When I got to the end of the book, I also thought that some of the characters could have been left out of the story without much impact…then we could have spent more time with Midas and Ida.
The most beautiful parts of the book were when Henry is exploring the insects of the regions, followed by the parts with Midas and Ida. This book is not really a fantasy and definitely not something to read to lift your mood. The mood of the book feels like winter; cold, unforgiving, and hopefully giving way to something better. To be honest the story left me feeling chilled.
Overall, there is some excellent imagery in the book and some creative ideas. I thought the execution left something to be desired; the plot meanders a lot and the book dealt more with bitter people than fantasy. In general an okay read; but not something to brighten your day. It didn’t make me eager to read any more of Shaw’s work.