Book Review: A Maze of Glass
Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
A hauntingly realistic horror-fantasy that reflects more than just terrifying monsters
S.R. Hughes pulls out all the stops in this terror-inducing mystical horror novel about two loving and brave witch sisters who must escape secret societies, overcome their anxieties and fears, and defeat grotesque monsters.
Told in parallel timelines—1997, 2006, & 2017—this psych-horror story is, at its heart, a story about sisters sticking together, no matter how many years it’s been since they’ve seen each other.
Zoe Briar, the novel’s protagonist, is a monster-hunter backed by a secret society. This is intriguing all on its own—we’d happily follow this badass lead through any number of monster-slaying activities for its plot—but Maze of Glass complicates her job.
Jill, Zoe’s sister, is a former addict with a past (and present) that haunts her. But she’s found a new purpose—a school for children with sixth-sense abilities just like her and her sister. Only problem? This kind of school is illegal, and Zoe is part of the secret society charged with shutting her down.
But Zoe knows this is a dangerous path, and she’ll do whatever she can to help her sister evade the clearly sinister company. From there comes an onslaught of dark magical action. From deformed monsters to misguided villains, the sisters use their years of practiced magic to show us the pains they’ve been hiding and to do whatever it takes to get them and others out alive.
This magic might not be what you’re picturing though.
They practice a learned form of slow-burn magic—one that needs hours and sometimes days to complete spells. With Omar, a character who Zoe brings into her circle after a monster attack, we see what civilians can see—or don’t often see; we find out what humans need to do in order to see and use the magic that Zoe and the others use. Magic is a sort of occupation in this world—a thing that can be learned, that hard-workers can get better at, that some don’t get better at—so it’s cool to see the ways in which they improve over time.
Jill, Zoe’s sister, may be my favorite character of the bunch. A former addict, she’s always just a couple steps away from making another mistake, and she wears her past mistakes in her blood. She is flawed and strong. I love the academic in her sitting around a swirl of floating books when she isn’t allowed to.
The primary downside here is that it’s all a lot to take in, perhaps too much at times. The timelines weave in and out of each other, and they don’t always feel separate—settings blend together, characters are often the same in different timelines. It can be difficult to get in tune with what exactly the stakes are and even what is standing in the way in each particular scene. The slow-burn magic really is an interesting companion, but it can also feel at times like we too are slowing down when maybe we could have reached a peak earlier on.
Maze of Glass is a dizzying psychological horror novel with shards poking out from the edges, threatening to slice. If you like slow-burn magic and gross gangly monsters, look no further than this.
Genre: Fantasy / Horror / Psychological
Print Length: 359 pages
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