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Elsewhens: Book Two of the Glass Thorns
by Melanie Rawn
TOR; $29.99; 384pp
Release Date: February 19, 2013
We are still following the performing group Touchstone, though in this tale, most of the exciting theatrics are happening off stage.

This novel is mostly about Mieka the elf, the one who controls the withies in each performance and his relationship with Cayden the tregetour—the playwright of the troupe. (It is still not clear to me how their performances are structured and performed…but at least in this novel they aren’t front and center.)

No, the focus is on the emotional ups and downs between Cayden and Mieka which provide the little energy to push this novel along. There is constant bickering/clashes over Cayden’s uncontrollable glimpses of the future(s) that might be—and almost all of them involve the capricious Mieka.

To add to the emotional mayhem, Mieka has gotten much more serious with the True Love of his life---a woman whose name is rarely mentioned and is usually just referred to as “she” or “her;” even after it becomes known Mieka has fathered a child with her and marries her in haste.

But Touchstone is sent off with a Royal diplomatic mission to bring back the Princess who’s to marry the heir to the kingdom. She lives across the ocean on the little-visited Continent in Gref Jyziero and Touchstone is sent along to show the people one of Abelyn’s strengths: their magic.

Because, of course, magic in the Princess’s kingdom is not talked of much and looked on as an evil—except, of course, when they need magic to fix something—then, by all the gods and little horses, they’ll use it. Magic users are held at arm’s length and frequently in great contempt.

On this royal progress to retrieve Abelyn’s next Queen, who is married by proxy first in an elaborate ceremony—Cayden meets a lady of the Princess’ court to whom he is mightily attracted….but he doesn’t pursue her too actively and the romance sadly peters out.

Also during this lengthy visit, one of Abelyn’s Archdukes offers Touchstone their own theater, built to their specifications and be his official troupe. But he is turned down and, of course, is not happy about this. More about this in the next novel, no doubt.

No, no one will own Touchstone. They will remain their own players beholden to no one save their next job, their next audience.

The story goes it merry way with personality conflicts galore. There’s moderate interest in a search for a treasure while Cayden does a rewrite of a very old production about an awesome Fae treasure. Cayden also learns some interesting bits about his lineage and magic.

The spikes of tension, the scenes of high drama, and the events that spur the story on are mild and low-key. I had to force myself to finish the book.

Mieka the elf sadly becomes just annoying in the extreme. He either spends a great deal of page space cajoling Cayden into revealing the elf’s future through the “elsewhens” visited upon Cayden or whining interminably about what Cayden reluctantly reveals. These two are best buds but they are at constant odds with each other. They both tend use the glass thorns of the title to enhance their dreams, help them sleep, etc.

Seriously—they might as well be a bonded couple for all the attention Rawn focuses on the two. I wonder why she hasn’t made them actual lovers. They have the snappiest dialogue and most intense scenes. The women in both their lives are ciphers. Well, actually Cayden’s lady is mentioned more and has more of a part to play in the tale. Rawn makes it seem as if Mieka will fall apart if he doesn’t have his True Love. But then, of course, he’s sent off on this lengthy trip with Touchstone so the reader is offered no interaction between Mieka and his love because we never see them together and only have Mieka’s word for his side of the passion; he doesn’t really act on it….

The rest of Touchstone are buffers in Cayden and Mieka’s clashes and occasional sounding boards and barely play a part in the tale.

It is shame that the aspects of this novel that don’t work for me overshadow that which Rawn does well: she creates an amazing world, has great descriptive ability and a fine hand with dialogue. Even though there is a great deal of emotion being spread about—it is all self-centered. The characters to me have grown less than they did in the first book. And it is all eclipsed by the bland plot fueling the novel and that the strongest scenes in the tale are when the two most prominent characters are at their most irritating and snipe at each other.

Though this time, the hook for the next novel is a bit stronger.

After all, there is still a treasure to find/reveal. ~~ Sue Martin

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