Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Fiction, Magic, Magicians
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
Opal has weathered rough waters and twisting currents, yet instead of finding a tranquil eddy she’s caught in a riptide. As if the fight for controlling Opal’s glass messengers – and therefore controlling Opal – isn’t enough to deal with, it’s also up to Opal to prove that blood magic is still being used. When no one believes her, it’s up to Opal to decide what to believe in and how to prove the truth to the world.
When we reached the beach, Leif fell to his knees with a dramatic cry. “Solid ground! I’ll never take you for granted again.”
“Are you going to kiss the sand?” I asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Now I’M the one being silly?”
“Yes.”Maria V Snyder, Sea Glass
Over the years I’ve certainly come to enjoy my time in Snyder’s worlds. She creates characters that are fun to be in the head of. She creates worlds that seem larger than life. She even creates conflict in ways I never would have thought of.
That being said, there’s definitely certain structural patterns to her stories that she doesn’t stray from. It’s clear that Snyder has found a pattern that works for her and she rarely strays from it. While this can be done in interesting ways, it’s starting to feel like her books are “Burger Essays” in book form.
Never heard the term “Burger Essay” before? It’s the kind of essay you’re expected to write in high school: introduction paragraph; first defense and example; second defense and example; third defense and example; concluding paragraph. Your first defense is always your second strongest point, the middle defense is your weakest, and the final point is your strongest to pull the entire paper together.
While this is a decent way to write essays in high school, it’s something you quickly learn to throw in the trash in post secondary school. No professor is going to give you a good grade on a Burger Essay. It’s a quick and easy way to bang out a paper, but never an interesting or unique read. Instead, your professor is going to expect you to change things up – make the essay interesting. Maybe you throw in a paragraph that’s a single sentence, maybe you add an extra example or defense to your paper. No matter what you do to change it up, there’s no way that you’re going to write to papers that can be placed side by side for your professor to say, “Oh yes, that’s exactly what I expected from this student. They’re near identical in structure.” Besides, can you imagine having to write a ten page burger essay? I’d fall asleep before the third page.
And that, my dear reader, is my long winded way to explain how Snyder’s works are currently feeling to me. While I enjoy reading them and spending time in the world, I find that I can’t read too many of them back to back. The events in the stories start to blend together for me. The characters begin to sound alike. I forget which major plot point we’re supposed to be following if I put the book down because they all follow the same formula.
While it may seem like I’m saying I didn’t enjoy this book, that’s not the truth at all. I did enjoy seeing Opal becoming her own person in this story. I did enjoy seeing her rise above her critics and prove that she was going to do what was right even if others didn’t see her side in things. I did enjoy watching her love story start to unfold. It’s just the elements of these plots points that were done before.
That isn’t to say you wouldn’t enjoy this story of Snyder’s writing style. I quite enjoyed my time in this book. What I mean is that you should expect exactly what all Maria V Snyder books are going to give you. It’ll be a fun visit into Snyder’s mind and this world of magic, but nothing exceptional to write home about.
While I may be harping on this story more than I need to, I am only doing so to get my point across as bluntly as possible. Snyder writes a great book, they’re just not all unique to each other.
For example, Opal is dealing with living in a love triangle in her story. Devlen and Kade both make their intentions clear to Opal and it’s up to her to decide what to do about it. While she clearly chooses Kade over Devlen, that’s exactly what Snyder always seems to do in this situation. I’d be much more interested in how things would turn out if Opal was able to overlook the Evil Magician side of Kade and got to learn more about the man he is. After all, she truly was falling for him.
In another Snyder story in this world, Yelena is in an – albeit weak – love triangle with Valek and Cahil. She begins this romance by fearing Valek and it takes a lot of work on both their parts to prove to the other that they’re meant to be together. Cahil is introduced later and though he starts out as being a great friend in a new place, he doesn’t handle rejection well. It’s clear that Yelena is going to stay with Valek, but that doesn’t stop Cahil from becoming a villain in her story.
In yet another story – though this one in a different world so I won’t include spoilers – a healer is in a love triangle. One is the obvious choice, even though they start out by hating each other. The other is the literal villain in the story, and it’s clear from the beginning that he’s not going to be her choice.
While the specifics of each situation differ slightly, the same major plot points occur in each of these romances.
Another example of this is the fact that the main character knows something, the rest of the cast of characters doesn’t believe said truth, and the main character ends up proving herself right and saving the day. While I could easily go into specifics of this, it’s clear enough in each story that I’m not going to break it down. Besides, even though this is the spoiler section for Sea Glass, I’m not going into it expecting everyone to have read the same Snyder books that I have at this point.
Looking at the things that I actually enjoyed about this story, instead of all the ways it didn’t stand out to me, I’d like to briefly touch on Opal’s growth. While I’ll get to her magic in a minute, I think it’s important to talk about Opal’s growth as a person. In reality, this personal growth is what’s kept me so engaged in her story.
When we first meet Opal, she’s a side character in Yelena’s story. Bad things happen to her and she manages to help the Soul Finder complete her mission and save the day. Even playing a huge role in everything that happened in Yelena’s story, when we first get to experience Opal’s thoughts it’s clear that she feels like a minor character who shouldn’t get recognition at all. She feels like she should always be a side character and that her life isn’t ever going to be one of adventure and mystery.
While this book isn’t the end of Opal’s story, it’s clear that she’s already gone through a crazy amount of personal growth. She’s discovered that she’s worth more than just her glass animals – that she’s got worth as a person herself. She’s discovered that there are things about her that others might find engaging and attractive. She’s discovered that people could actually like her for herself, and not because she’s someone’s sister or helped the Soul Finder that one time.
But most importantly, she’s learned to forgive herself. Yes she was put into a horrible position in which she betrayed Yelena in a very minor way, but she did this to save her life. Yelena never blamed Opal for doing what she needed to in order to survive. It’s taken Opal much longer to understand that Yelena never faulted her for her actions, that she was proud of Opal for having the strength to survive what she’d done. That Yelena actually meant it when she said they were friends.
Of course, we can’t talk about Opal’s growth without also talking about her growth as a magician. Thinking herself to be a one trick pony, Opal has certainly learned more about her magic than she ever thought possible. She’s learned that she can siphon magic from other people and trap it in glass which has terrified not only the council. But even more than that, she’s learned how to control what she can do. She’s learned how to control the magic within the glass, how to protect herself with this “borrowed” (stolen) magic.
Now that she’s finally learned what her magic can do, Opal finds herself without it. Having to siphon her own magic in order to stop things from going even more wrong couldn’t have been easy for Opal, yet she makes it seem like an easy decision to make. That’s how pure Opal’s intentions always are. And that’s why I enjoy being in her head so much.
I look forward to continuing on with Opal’s story, to discover how far she’ll go in order to do what she thinks is right.
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