Nicely told with viewpoints switching between chapters, Gwen Perkins’ The Jealousy Glass starts with a shipwreck and washes its erstwhile ambassador and spy ashore in a foreign land where war is threatened and peace is threatening. A curious tension between the main characters might be explained by events in the first book of the series (I haven't read it), but events prove there’s more to the present than the past—two men divided by privilege and its lack might be united by love as well as politics, if they can only figure a way to tell and trust each other.
The dialog has a downbeat solemnity hiding more than it reveals and keeping readers and characters guessing, but Asahel is right when he proclaims, “It doesn’t protect anyone to hold back the truth… It only makes it harder to bear when it finally comes out.”
Political intrigue, mixed messages, threats and secrets abound in this tale, with hints of religion and magic, tolerance, intolerance, faithfulness and betrayal. There’s certainly much to think about and the world is beautifully imagined in all its beauty and complexity. I really enjoyed the religious overtones—an atheist society with a cleric who calls the lost to believe in themselves, a theist society where magic is hidden and controlled, plus the question of whether gods no longer believed in are truly dead. But little is resolved by the end of the novel; the reader’s left hoping for a sequel which, in a series called Artifacts of Empire, must surely be in the works.
I wished I’d read the first volume, The Universal Mirror, before reading this, not because I think it would explain everything, but because it would stop me from wondering if I was missing something as I read. That said, I found the story and its characters fascinating and would happily read more.
Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of this novel when I took part in the author’s blog tour.