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Welcome back for another stop in the Jo Fletcher Skyscraper Throne Reread. In week 22 we’ve come about halfway in The Glass Republic and I’ll be recapping chapters 29-32. As in the previous posts I hosted there will be spoilers galore. If you haven’t read these books before and want to remain unspoiled, best beware, as Milady says: SPOILERS!!!
The book starts about three months after the events related in The City’s Son. After months of healing and re-constructive surgery, Pen has returned to Frostfield High, with scars but without her best friend Beth. Pen is lonely at school, but has found refuge in a closed-up school building, where she’s also found her only source of comfort. Her mirror sister Parva. Parva lives in London-Under-Glass and is identical to Pen in looks, but quite different in many other ways. Still Parva knows exactly what Pen has been through and as such is the best ear to pour her problems into. When Parva disappears, Pen needs to find her, to make sure she’s safe. Desperate she goes to the Chemical Synod to bargain for a way beyond the mirror. She succeeds but at a steep price: her parents’ memories of her growing-up, unless she returns within 21 days with a unique artefact from behind the mirror. Once Pen steps through the mirror, she discovers that Parva is her mirror image and so is the way she is regarded. Parva is part of the mirrorstocracy and the face of the Looking Glass Lottery, the most beautiful woman in the world. To say Pen is shocked is an understatement. She’s also told that she’ll need to be ready for a photo shoot with a few days. Pen wanders around her rooms, trying to wrap her head around things, when she sees weather sweeps on the roofs of the buildings around her and one of them is swept off the roof by slate hail. Pen rescues the girl, called Espel, and in a desperate move to get some explanations and to keep Espel safe she makes Espel her lady-in-waiting. Having survived the photo shoot and Espel’s attempt to kill her, Pen agrees to meet with the leadership of the Faceless, the people that oppose the mirrorstocracy. After travelling across London-Under-Glass through increasingly unfamiliar streets Pen has a meeting with Garrison Cray and his cabal and agrees to help the Faceless bring down the Lottery. On their return journey they are caught out by a weatherturn and need to seek refuge in a building that turns out to be an entry point for immigrants into London-Under-Glass. Here Pen witnesses the application of IDs first hand and is confronted by the Under-Glass version of the masonry men. They are rescued by Captain Corbin and when Pen wakes up back in her bed, Senator Case assures her that what she saw was a ‘terrorist attack.’
Meanwhile Beth is roaming London, familiarising herself with her city, catching a sewermander, trying to get the baby Pavement Priest that was Filius his memories back, and discovering that she might have gotten more in Fil’s bargain than they might have expected as she’s developing a true spire-toothed smile. This creates a somewhat tense situation with the Pavement Priests both the true believers and the apostates. In search of answers Beth goes to visit the Chemical Synod and discovers her new nature is due to differing semantic interpretations. She also finds a picture of Pen and discovers the bargain she made. Determined to go after Pen, she persuades the Chemical Synod to help her, with the application of some judicious threats. The Synod reveals that the only one who can help Beth is Gutterglass. On her way out to confront Glas, Beth also swipes the bottle containing the memories Fil bartered for her transformation out of its alcove.
‘You poor, naïve goddess.’
Chapter 29 starts us off back with Beth. In fact it starts us off with Beth and a horde of cats following her around the streets of London. This of course is a nod to Beth’s transformation to the true Daughter of the Streets. Pollock provides a wonderful explanation for why people dismiss what they see when they witness this odd procession: its late at night and many people write it off to drunken hallucinations. Beth arrives at a tower besieged by an army of stone statues interspersed with numerous randomly placed street lights. The visual created was striking and given what we know of the pavement priests rather imposing. The tower is Gutterglass’ retreat, where she has holed-up to defend herself from the angry mob of Pavement Priests. Before we go any further into this tower can I be the first to say ‘Eeeeww!!’ Beth wades through decaying trash to find Glas who has seemingly just moved her tip inside. Beth has come to Glas to get a way to travel to London-Under-Glass from her. When Beth asks how Glas knows how to effect this, Glas admits to coming from the other side of the mirror. We get a short insight into Glas’ history, which is interesting and a revelation, because it seems Glas didn’t just worship Mater Viae, she loved her as well. When Beth asks Glas’ price for the phial of potion to get Under-Glass, Glas is surprised and names what seems a low price, saying Beth is already becoming all she could wish for. But Beth realises that Glas’ price for the phial — that Beth command her to hand it over — is far higher with further consequences than it appears at first blush.
‘It means I’m into you.’
While we leave Beth to consider Glas’ price, chapter 30 brings us back to Pen. She and Espel have returned to the Hall of Beauty telling the guard that she’s nervous for Draw Night and that she wants to practice her speech. Pretending to practice — with Espel having a lot of fun at Pen’s expense — they use the Goutierre Device to scan Pen’s face and look for Parva. While they’re working Espel asks Pen why Case wanted her to give Espel a raise. Pen admits that Case thinks Espel should buy extra facial features to make their relationship more respectable. Torn between amusement and anger Espel tells Pen she’s ugly by her society’s standards, but ‘That’s fine. I don’t want them to think I’m beautiful. What I want is for it not to matter that they don’t.’ Pen takes a chance and tells Espel she thinks she is beautiful. Before Espel can react the Goutierre Device kicks into action. After a few tense moments they have what they came for: they know where to find Parva.
Before they leave the Hall of Beauty Pen switches Goutierre’s Eye with Espel’s marble to fulfil her end of the bargain she struck with the Faceless. When Espel hesitates before leaving, Pen thinks she’s having second thoughts about saving Parva. Instead Espel wants to know whether Pen meant what she said before. In answer Pen kisses Espel. Pen is elated and frightened at the same time as Espel reciprocates. When Espel asks whether this means Pen’s into girls, she prevaricates as everything in her upbringing tells her this is wrong. She pushes these thoughts aside and decides to enjoy the moment and save the worry for later.
‘We’re a little tight on exits.’
Now they’ve located Parva and swapped out the Eye, it’s time for a quick getaway in chapter 31. With all the exits being guarded, there is only one way out left, the steeple-jill way—out the window. After a fun scene where the girls have to change clothes, which has received a whole new tension are last chapter’s revelations, Pen takes the plunge both literally and figuratively, telling Espel to call her Pen in the instant they go out the window.
‘They were watching her.’
We fall straight on into chapter 32 with Pen and Espel once again secretly winding their way through the city. Pen’s skill at stealth, learned from the Mistress, serve her well in this place. When they get close to their destination, Pen chokes as the streets remind her forcefully of home and Beth and her longing for them is almost a physical sensation. Once she’s regained her poise, they walk on and find themselves at the mirror version of Frostfield High. While the girls are contemplating how they’ll get past the Khannibles at the gates, Pen suddenly hears a familiar laugh. It’s Parva. At least, it sounds like Parva, but when Pen sees her, she has a silver seam down the middle of her face. Pen is disappointed, until she notices that the girl’s head scarf is the exact one she had on the day Parva was born in the mirror.
Pen makes Espel distract the girl’s friends and drags her into an alley. Studying her closely, Pen remembers the half-mask worn by Mirrorstocracy in hiding, and sudden;y has her suspicions about what happened. When the girl thinks Pen is Parva and introduces herself as Aisha, Pen puts everything together; Aisha is Parva, but somehow she’s been bonded to a half-mask and her memories have been wiped. When she asks Aisha about whether she was happy before she came here and started at this school, she answers that it was okay, but that this is better. Pen longs to make Aisha remember she is Parva, but decides she deserves a chance at happiness and lets her go.
As Pen and Espel get ready to leave, they discover another Masonry Man who is clearly watching Aisha. They start running only for more of them to appear. They flee and against all odds outpace the monsters, but not without Espel being wounded. They finally make it to the main road, where a car pulls up, almost running them over. Out of the Chevalier vehicle pops Captain Corbin. While Pen tries to decide whether to trust him – how could they have known where she was? – Corbin starts pleading with the sole Masonry Man that has caught up to them to let Pen go. The creature announces that ‘The agreement is breached.’ And that Pen has to attend his mistress, will she, nil she. Corbin, white with fear, acquiesces.
And that was it for another week. Be sure to come back here for the next installment of the #SkyscraperThroneReRead next Thursday.