This week the #SkyscraperThroneReRead heads back to the Jo Fletcher Books blog and we are happy to bring you a look at chapters 21-24 of The Glass Republic. Don’t forget to share your thoughts on the chapters on twitter with #SkyscraperThroneReRead or below. And remember . . .
We are back with Beth . . . and she is looking for some answers! We all know what this means: a trip to the Chemical Synod. But for this visit Beth doesn’t want to arrive on their terms:
‘. . . winding her way through the sewers and sub-basements, rather than presenting herself at the old dye-works. She was using the workmen’s entrance, the back door, aggressively casual . . .’
Yet another example of Beth laying her claim to all of London. You have to love it! Also at this point I have to mention:
Now, back to business . . . Beth knows she is now the child of the streets, and once Johnny Naphtha and his buddies emerge we find out the true depth of this statement – and one or two other startling revelations. Firstly, we discover that Filius Viae gave the Synod his ‘Childhood outlooks, proclivities and memories, complete to sixteen’. And, in some ways, this is the exact opposite to what Johnny Naphtha asked Pen to give up.
Next comes the revelation that Beth hasn’t become what she and Filius intended her to be. And there’s the lesson boys and girls: when dealing with the synod, always be careful to say EXACTLY what you mean. They had intended that Beth become like him: one with the streets, but what they asked was for Beth to be ‘as much a child of Mater Viae’ as they could make her. And they were able to make her very like the goddess of the streets: in other words, she is the new Mater Viae.
And the revelations don’t stop there. Tom goes on to even out the dramatic irony he created when Pen struck her deal with the Chemical Synod, by having Beth discover just what happened during their deal. This leads to, perhaps my favourite, quote; one that really sums up Beth’s loyalty to and love of Pen;
‘Only the people you really love can scare you witless enough for true courage, Beth thought. She was scared now – really scared – but she would have dug her way out of her own grave to stand beside that girl’
This fear turns to pure anger when Johnny tells her they can’t send her to London-Under-Glass to find Pen. In fact, Beth is so angry that she attacks Johnny and the boys, sending Oscar after them. This doesn’t end well for Oscar [big sob], but also shows us the first time the Chemical Synod are fractured, as Johnny reacts before the others. But, soon enough, they all round on Beth, backing her into a corner. Then they threaten her with the ‘Great Fire’.
This doesn’t work out for them: as a child of Mater Viae, Beth is impervious to the Great Fire, and boy oh boy the synod weren’t expecting that. In fact, they underestimate Beth quite enormously, because not only does she has the ability to summon her own Masonry Men, but she also has an incredible ability to think on her feet. By threatening their ‘profit’ (the things they acquire as part of their bargains), Beth is able to gain the upper hand and discover the final revelation of the chapter: that it was Gutterglass who traded the ability to visit London-Under-Glass with the Chemical Synod in the first place.
And, to close the chapter, Beth takes something she has been trying to create artificially, the exact thing Filius traded with the Chemical Synod: 16 years of his ‘Childhood outlooks, proclivities and memories’.
Welcome back to London-Under-Glass as Pen makes her way down to the kitchens and a garbage chute; the easiest way to get to the streets of London-Under-Glass without being seen.
During this journey, Pen’s feelings for Espel continue to build and her attraction to the girl who tried to kill her grows.
Also, we get to see that Pen cares for Beth every bit as much as Beth cares for her. In fact, just thinking of Beth makes Pen’s chest so tight that she has to snatch for breath. I love how this friendship has grown so that both characters can survive, grow and develop independently of each other, but they still need and miss each other, and would be there for each other no matter what: true friendship!
And so the chapter comes to an end with Pen heading for ‘the real badlands . . . Kensington’.
On the streets of London-Under-Glass we are shown the poor/rich divide, which, unsurprisingly, is quite the opposite of where it forms in our London. In London-Under-Glass, the rain is made up of bricks, dust and slate, so debris litter the floor. As Pen travels, she notices that this debris has cleverly been maneuvered into defensive formations. As the poor do not have their streets cleaned, the people of the area have used the debris to their advantage, making the street impassable for any forms of transport other than people on foot.
It is whilst walking the streets of London that Espel’s true strength of character and conviction really shine through: Pen and Espel come across a girl who is contemplating suicide. Whilst Pen waits in the depths of the maze created from bricks, slate and dust, Espel goes to the girl and tells her to ignore the bullying that has driven her to this.
‘It’s your face. Not theirs, yours. It bears the marks of the choices you made. Be proud of that.’
This, for me, is the main message Tom conveys with this book: be happy with how you look and who you are. And if anything this message is even more important in London-Under-Glass where beauty is a commodity.
Beauty is something Pen has struggled with in our London, and even though she is now deemed ‘beautiful’ in London-Under-Glass, her sympathies are aligning more and more with the revolutionaries. Her experiences are similar to theirs and she truly understands that a person’s appearance does not dictate who you are.
And finally, Pen and Espel reach their destination; a place that only exists in London-Under-Glass. A place with ‘no glass or metal to reflect’. Pen finally meets Garrison Clay and his fist instinct is to kill her, but his curiosity stops him: why would the face of the looking glass lottery want to meet with him?
Their meeting shows how much Pen has grown. She defends herself with sharp and courageous retorts and refuses to let her fear show. Even she admits ‘The words coming out of her mouth didn’t sounds like her . . . They sounded like Beth’, and this is no bad thing. As you grow, the friendships you make and the experiences you have change you. It makes sense for Pen to stand her ground here, she has already made the plunge, there is no backing out for her.
And then comes the twist . . . Jack Wingborough isn’t faceless; he joined the revolution! The video circulating the internet that Pen saw earlier in the novel actually features his brother Simon and was made by Senator Case to punish Jack, explain his absence and allow her to inherit the family’s money. Wow! That’s an unbelievably cruel and ruthless action from Case, and I think it is summed up perfectly by Jack when he says: ‘Auntie Maggie is ever so efficient’. That’s right, efficient. It isn’t her cold hearted and violent nature that stands out most. Oh no, these things are a given, they don’t need explaining. It is her efficiency that is her stand out feature: she acts swiftly and decisively in calculating ways, and she is all the more evil for it.
And so I was giddy when Pen was eventually welcomed to the revolution for promising she would take ‘the one irreplaceable part of the machine that makes the whole system work’: Goutierre’s Eye.
I have a feeling things are about to get very exciting!