Falcon in the Glass

Falcon in the Glass

5.0 1
by Susan Fletcher
     
 

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A boy risks his life to save some very special children in this fantasy adventure rife with “moments of real beauty and mystery” (Kirkus Reviews), set amidst the rich backdrop of Renaissance Venice.

In Renaissance Venice, the secrets of glassblowing are guarded jealously. Renzo, a twelve-year-old laborer in a glassworks, has just a few monthsSee more details below

Overview

A boy risks his life to save some very special children in this fantasy adventure rife with “moments of real beauty and mystery” (Kirkus Reviews), set amidst the rich backdrop of Renaissance Venice.

In Renaissance Venice, the secrets of glassblowing are guarded jealously. Renzo, a twelve-year-old laborer in a glassworks, has just a few months to prepare for a test of his abilities, and no one to teach him. If he passes, he will qualify as a skilled glassblower. If he fails, he will be expelled from the glassworks. Becoming a glassblower is his murdered father’s dying wish for him, and the means of supporting his mother and sister. But Renzo desperately needs another pair of hands to help him turn the glass as he practices at night.

One night he is disturbed by a bird—a small falcon—that belongs to a girl hiding in the glassworks. Soon Renzo learns about her and others like her—the bird people, who can communicate with birds and are condemned as witches. He tries to get her to help him, but discovers that she comes with baggage: ten hungry bird-kenning children who desperately need his aid. Caught between devotion to his family and his art and protecting a group of outcast children, Renzo struggles for a solution that will keep everyone safe in this atmospheric adventure.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
There are writers, and then there are storytellers. Susan fletcher is a consummate storyteller and, just as in The Shadow Spinner she wove a Sheharazadian tale, now Fletcher creates a Venetian confection of the intriguing glassworks trade on the island of Murano. Renzo works to continue his family's place in the traditional craft after the accidental assassination of his father. Not yet skilled, he is reduced to drudge work until, out of misguided kindness, he offers shelter to a family of children, green-eyed and thought to be witches for their ability to charm birds and have them do their bidding. Letta, the oldest girl, leads the tribe of children and also gives Renzo the gift of making realistic glass falcons. Armed with this knowledge, Renzo passes the test for an apprenticeship in the glassworks, but his family is still in danger because his uncle, exiled from Murano for possibly leaking secrets, has returned. Nor are the bird children safe as they and their grandmother are imprisoned on suspicion of being witches. "We humans!" says Fletcher, "Blinded by our ignorance, consumed by our fears! Always looking beyond our separate tribes to someone to scapegoat for our difficulties." This is the essence of the book that so elegantly describes danger and betrayal, cruelty and kindness, and the family we have and the family we choose. How succinctly Fletcher summarizes the human condition. Each character has the many facets of Murano glass. Renzo and Retta, while too young to have an actual romance, are undeniably entwined in a relationship of loyalty and love. A minutely detailed, enticing to read book that spins out its tale like threads of glass made into a beautiful whole. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—Renzo toils in a glass workshop in Italy in the late 1400s. He works ceaselessly to pass the glassmaker's tests and become an apprentice, an unlikely event given the scandal that colors his family's past. Studying nights, the teen desperately needs an assistant to succeed. When he meets Letta, a homeless waif, he secretly asks for her help. Letta has secrets, too. She is one of the "bird children," who seem to have mystical relationships with their avian companions. Letta strives to provide for other impoverished bird children, while Renzo cares only about his upcoming test. As Letta helps him with his glassmaking, he realizes that his self-centeredness hurts others. When his negligence causes Letta and her "family" to be imprisoned, he devises an ingenious plot to rescue them. Detailed descriptions of glassmaking and Venetian life will give readers a bird's-eye view of the culture. The author illuminates Renzo's character one scene at a time. With each adversity he faces, he learns about himself and can choose to act differently. Scenes alternate between the Venetian palace dungeon and Renzo's adventures. The sizable amount of factual information and Fletcher's reserved tone may appeal to a limited audience. However, for those who like historical fiction steeped in context, this is a solid selection.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT
Gail Carson Levine
"Falcon in the Glass has it all: sympathetic characters, fascinating details, high stakes, a hint of magic, excitement on every page. I couldn't put it down!"
Karen Cushman
"Falcon in the Glass is a spine-tingling adventure with a tender heart. Imagine dangerous secrets, cloaked assassins, and midnight rides through the murky canals of Venice. Do read it. You'll be glad."
From the Publisher
"Falcon in the Glass has it all: sympathetic characters, fascinating details, high stakes, a hint of magic, excitement on every page. I couldn't put it down!"

"Falcon in the Glass is a spine-tingling adventure with a tender heart. Imagine dangerous secrets, cloaked assassins, and midnight rides through the murky canals of Venice. Do read it. You'll be glad."

"Moments of real beauty and mystery."

Booklist
"A well-constructed, intriguing novel."
Kirkus Reviews
Moments of real beauty and mystery vie for readers' attention with an overstuffed plot glazed in magic. The island of Murano was (and is) the home of Venice's glassworks in 1497. There, Renzo tries to learn his late father's craft, practicing at night. During the day, he serves the padrone who took him in and worries about how he might support his mother and sister. The glassmakers of Venice are fierce and protective of their skills, even to the point of violence. One night, a silent, green-eyed girl, Letta, and her kestrel creep into the glassworks, and Renzo discovers she leads a group of ragged children, each with a bird companion. Renzo is deeply conflicted as he tries to both teach himself and protect the children. An assassination, a lost relative, intimations of witchcraft, an eye-gouging and high tide seeping into the doge's dungeons are only some of the plot lines in a story whose seams and rough cuts seem rather visible. But there are some lovely moments, too. "You can watch the glass swell, grow bubble-thin and gossamer, and know that fear is making it lovely, fear is giving it shape. With glass, joy is the preferable medium. But fear is powerful, and it will do, when joy cannot be found." The language will carry word-loving readers past the story's rough spots. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442429925
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
07/09/2013
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
318,002
File size:
4 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Susan Fletcher is the acclaimed author of the Dragon Chronicles, composed of Dragon’s Milk, Flight of the Dragon Kyn, Sign of the Dove, and Ancient, Strange, and Lovely as well as the award-winning Alphabet of Dreams, Shadow Spinner, Walk Across the Sea, and Falcon in the Glass. Ms. Fletcher lives in Wilsonville, Oregon. Visit her at SusanFletcher.com.

Read an Excerpt

Falcon in the Glass


  • Something rustled in the dark — a sound so faint, Renzo barely heard it at all, but it told him he was not alone.

    Out of the corner of one ear, he heard it. His eyes and mind and heart had belonged entirely to the glass before him, and not to the signs of danger.

    It glowed copper-orange, the glass — a veined and stunted sun blazing in the gloom of the workshop. Renzo had gathered it, molten, on the end of the blowpipe; he had rolled it on the stone malmoro; he had shaped it in the magiosso mold. He had set the pipe to his lips and breathed — just long enough and hard enough to belly out the glass in the slightest curve and begin to make it his.

    Of sounds he’d taken no notice. Not the roar of the furnace, nor the splash of water when the magiosso dropped into its bath, nor even the soft, secret whoosh of his breath inside the pipe.

    He heard them but did not mark them. Not until the new sound came — the rustling, faint and quick.

    He stood still as stones now, waves of prickling gooseflesh coursing down his back. This was a different kind of sound, out of place in the glassworks in the dead of night. It was a sound an assassin might make, hiding deep in shadow, his legs beginning to cramp, not wanting to move but forced by pain to shift position. Or a hesitation sound, perhaps. The assassin wondering, Shall I make my move now, or later?

    It was a sound Renzo’s father might have heard these many months since, on the last night of his life.

    It came again:

    Rustle-shiver-scritch.

    Above!

    Renzo peered up into the shadows, where the furnace’s glow flickered across the rafters.

    And beheld a bird.

    Renzo’s knees went weak; his breath escaped in a sigh of relief.

    Only a bird.

    He wanted to laugh then, at his foolishness. At his heart, still clattering between his ribs. At the glass, now a misshapen lump — darkening as it cooled, crumpling in upon itself.

    Only a bird. A little falcon — a kestrel.

    He watched it for a moment, breathing, waiting for his heart to settle. The assassins would not return, he told himself. They’d done what they’d come to do. And whatever befell his traitor of an uncle, it would be far from here.

    The falcon rattled its feathers. Better get it out of here. The padrone did not tolerate birds in the glassworks. What if a feather — or worse — should fall on the smooth surface of a newly worked cup or bowl?

    Renzo knocked the blowpipe against the rim of the pail at his feet; the glass cracked off and clattered among the heaped remains of his earlier failures. Simpler forms gave him no trouble, but the complicated ones . . . Sometimes he wished he had three hands.

    He set the blowpipe on the rack beside the other pipes and rods, then made his way across the wide, open floor of the glassworks and opened the oaken door.

    Outside, still waters lapped against stone. The chill winter breeze touched his face, carrying the smells of the lagoon: fish, and salt, and tar. Mist rose from the dark canal and crept like smoke along the lane, blurring the silent houses, making them wavery, gauzy — homes for ghosts. The sweat grew clammy on Renzo’s body and made him shiver. His shoulders and arms and back all ached; a dark pool of weariness pressed down on the crown of his head and seeped into his eyes.

    Nothing had gone well tonight. And he was so far behind.

    He stepped back inside, clapped his hands, shouted at the bird. But it must have felt snug there, high up in the rafters. It did not budge.

    He scooped up a handful of pebbles from outside and tossed one at the bird. It let out a hoarse cry and took off flying. He pursued, throwing more pebbles, not trying to hit it, just drive it out the door.

    “Cease with that! Basta!”

    Renzo’s heart seized. He whirled round to see who had shouted.

    The figure came hurtling out of the shadows behind the woodpile. Came so fast, Renzo barely had time to put up his hands to defend himself before she was raining blows down upon him. He might have lashed out, except that she was smaller than he, and he saw that she was a girl. No more than twelve or thirteen years old, he thought. No older than he, himself.

    She dealt him one last shove and then bolted toward the open doorway. She twisted back and sent the kestrel a look — a strange look, like a summons. The bird sailed out of the workshop behind her.

    Astounded, Renzo stared after them — girl and bird fleeing together, dissolving into the dark, into the mist. Before they vanished entirely, he thought he saw the kestrel swoop down and come to perch upon her shoulder as she ran.

    But he must have imagined that.

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