♡ ♡ . 5 s t a r s
Perrie Madeleine lives a normal life in the town of Deer Park, Texas. She goes to a normal high school, and has normal people problems – a messy ex-boyfriend, a friend she feels for a bit romantically, and a cousin/best friend that she shares everything with. But people begin to go missing in this town, and the police have no leads. When a museum of sorts pops up in the town overnight, Perrie’s best friend Maisie applies for a job. The day of her first night of work, she goes missing, and so does Perrie’s ex-boyfriend. Perrie sets out on a mission – figure out what’s going on at this museum, and find her friend, no matter the cost.
Because I think problematic aspects of a book shouldn’t be tacked on to a review as an afterthought, let me begin by discussing them. I am aware that this is an ARC, and I sincerely hope that future publications will rectify these issues, but it’s important to discuss them now. Around the 5% mark, I came across this acephobic comment:
“Maisie gets plenty of offers from both guys and girls, but as I have come to realize, there’s no one like her. Sometimes, I think she’s asexual like certain plants.”
If the author had simply left it at, “I think she might be asexual,” and explained what asexuality is, it wouldn’t have left such a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a micro aggression- relating an aspect of someone’s identity to plants and leaving it at that, as if asexuality is an identity inherently not human. Also, saying that there’s “no one like her” in the context of asexuality is extremely off-putting. Asexuality is real, and asexual people very much exist, and to pass this off as some unique, one-off thing just furthers stigma.
Another thing that didn’t sit right with me was the fact that Maisie is biracial (her father is Middle Eastern), but this is only referred to in passing. She could easily be white without there being any difference – not to mention the fact that the Middle East encompasses so many countries and ethnicities, and it’s never specified what ethnicity Maisie is. She is described as “brown because she’s Middle Eastern,” that’s it. When you include a character of color in your story, especially if it’s a Middle Eastern brown character in the middle of a small town in Texas, you need to give some substance to their experiences – whether this is done through some cultural nods, some dialogue in a different language, or even just some more discussion about their heritage. If this is not done, it screams tokenism, and people of color are not tokens who exist to lend some “diversity credit” to your stories.
Moving on: Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault is told through several retellings, and though it starts off dull and uninspiring, things pick up at the 25% mark when these horror retellings kick in. The world-building is delicious, and I can’t seem to come up with any other way to describe it, simply because the world-building was what made me devour the book in one or two sittings. Robinson sets up each setting of each retelling wonderfully, giving them all the time and attention to detail that they deserve, infusing true crime, fairytale, the paranormal and the realistic to form distinct experiences throughout each retelling. It’s unabashedly gory and violent; there are descriptions of horrifying scenes that genuinely made my stomach turn, and I’m usually not easily bothered by written descriptions of things. The magical aspects of it aren’t given too much description, but this works in the book’s favor; instead of getting bogged down in the technicalities of things, you are flung right into the action, ready to devour every scene as it comes. By far my favorite ‘portion’ of the retellings was the horrifying reworking of Snow White.
While there’s some romance, the book isn’t dominated or ruled by it. One of the strongest aspects was definitely Perrie’s love for Maisie, and vice versa. Seldom do books emphasize female friendships, but this is one that places friendship above romance; thus, the romance – when it existed – was done tastefully.
But, Glass Vault lacks in character development; the character’s introspections, their development and the space they need to be given to evolve and grow is vastly overshadowed by the very many things happening in the plot. It’s a short book – the paperback spans just over 200 pages, and because there’s so much action, it passes you by in a blur. But upon turning the last page, I realized that the characters were rather forgettable; none of them struck out to me as particularly lovable, or people that I wanted to know more about. They were just tools to further an interesting plot rather than integral components of the plot itself. I will, however, give Robinson credit for the end – I didn’t see it coming at all, and I’m inclined to give the second book a read, just to see how the story ends; Robinson has a way for making you think that you know where the plot’s going, but veering it completely off-course along the path. In a good way.
Ultimately, Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault is a fast-paced, fun, and deliciously horrific ride into the author’s creative talents, and there’s a lot going for it. If you’re a plot-driven reader, you’ll enjoy it, and if you enjoy retellings, this is the book for you. But be wary about the acephobia and the tokenism before going into it.
Attempted sexual assault; violence; graphic depictions of gore