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Mind your caste...
Rani Trader was born a merchant, but now she is an apprentice in the prestigious Glasswrights' Guild. When Rani witnesses the murder of the Crown Prince, she's accused of being the killer.
On the run and labeled a traitor, Rani must travel the city streets, masquerading through her kingdom's strict castes as she attempts to discover the actual assassin. Along the way, Rani meets true friends and false leaders. She discovers a secret brotherhood, and she must determine who is her greatest ally... and who is her most bitter enemy.
"Mind your caste," Rani is told. But what good will that do, if her caste gets her killed before she can expose the Prince's actual murderer?
Read an Excerpt
The Glasswrights' Apprentice
The Glasswright Series: Volume One
By Mindy L. Klasky
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2010 Mindy L. Klasky
All rights reserved.
Rani Trader pushed through the throngs in front of the cathedral, sparing only the Pilgrims' dusty robes from her sharp-elbowed thrusts. Fighting the crowd gave her an opportunity to spend some of the rage that pulsed in her thirteen-year-old veins, and she barely remembered to protect the precious basket that was slung over her arm.
The day had begun far too early, with Cook splashing a cup of icy water in her sleeping face, swearing at her to get her miserable bones down to the kitchen. As Rani crouched on the icy flagstones, dispensing threads of dried cotton to the faintest of smoldering embers, she shivered so hard that her teeth ached. Still, she managed to fill her lungs with breath after breath, blowing life into the fire that her fellow apprentice, Larinda, had let die during the night.
Of course, Rani could not speak out against Larinda, even when Cook kicked her for being so slow at building up the flame. Apprentices needed to stand by each other no matter what the assault from journeymen, masters, or servants.
That miserable dawn had only been a harbinger of a terrible morning. Rani had helped Cook stir the great cauldron of sticky porridge, ignoring the protest of her own belly as she ladled the noxious stuff into bowls for the masters and journeymen. Even if the food had been palatable, Cook never made enough for the apprentices to eat their fill.
When Rani's parents had bought her way into the prestigious glasswrights' guild, it had never occurred to them to question the fare that would be served at the apprentices' table. Now, there was not a night that Rani's belly did not cry out in hunger. Even when Cook prepared enough food for all, it was difficult to swallow the rations, thinking of the mice that swarmed in the pantry.
Rani knew that she was learning humility. She knew that she was learning patience. She knew that she was learning the blind obedience that paved the way to the highest level of her chosen craft. Still, when her belly growled and the sun had only climbed halfway to noon, it seemed that she would never be an Instructor.
Now, in the cathedral square, a Pilgrim stepped backward and ground his leather-heeled boot into Rani's inadequate soft shoe, unaware of the girl behind him. She stifled a cry and caught her large basket before it toppled to the cobble stones. Nevertheless, she heard glass clink hard against metal, and she offered up a quick prayer to the Thousand Gods that the knife had not cracked the jar of lemon water.
Thinking of the tart-sweet drink, Rani swallowed hard, and for the hundredth time, cast aside the shameful thought of sneaking a hand into the basket and extracting a morsel from the treasures Cook had ordered her to bring to Instructor Morada. Rani bore fresh-baked caraway bread and a plump sausage, the latter newly carried in from the smokehouse. She had watched as Cook counted out a half-dozen tiny, tart apples, and she had almost swooned when she was required to cut a slab of rich, creamy cheese to complement the feast. Almond honey cakes anchored the basket, and Rani could smell their heady fragrance over the less enticing odors of the perfumed and over-heated crowd.
She would not dishonor the guild. She would serve Instructor Morada with humble obedience, even if she fainted from hunger.
Directing a well-aimed kick toward a Touched brat who refused to let her pass, Rani permitted herself an angelic smile, indulgently dreaming of the day she was presented with her Instructor's sash. Instructors were glasswrights who had completed both their apprenticeship and their journeys and returned to the guildhall. Treated with the greatest esteem, they were courted daily by the guild, enticed to stay and impart their knowledge to worthless wretches of apprentices, instead of setting up profitable masters' workshops.
Rani's immediate concern, though, was not instruction, but making her way through the thick crowds closest to the cathedral doors. Everyone hoped for a glimpse of Prince Tuvashanoran in his Presentation regalia. It was not every day that a living king stepped down as Defender of the Faith, in favor of his eldest son. Even though King Shanoranvilli would retain the throne and all the secular power in the kingdom, he was transferring his role as religious leader of this people. The honor bestowed on Tuvashanoran was great; in fact, the event was unusual enough that Rani's guild had been commissioned to re-glaze one of the cathedral windows in commemoration.
Even now, Instructor Morada was putting the finishing touches on the work, making certain that the glass had settled well in its armature. Ideally, the window would have been completed well before Presentation Day, but there had been countless delays. First, they had not been able to get rare cobalt glass from the eastern province of Zarithia. Then, when the glass finally did arrive, the yellow stain had refused to take to the blue, leaving muddy streaks across the surface instead of the expected grassy green. Even after new glass was found to replace the faulty stuff, work had gone slowly. Designs had been mistakenly erased from white-washed tables, and a dozen grozing irons - used to cut the planes of glass - had gone missing from the store-rooms.
As late as yesterday morning, Rani had blended pot-paints for Morada to stipple into the final design, adding the last touches to the window as it rested in its cathedral armature. Morada had climbed down the scaffolding to view her handiwork in the full light of the previous noon, only to decide that a little more stippling was needed in the Defender's face, filling out the fierce features that symbolized the heart of the Pilgrims' faith. Of course, the paint could not be added once the sun had passed to the cathedral's western side - it was impossible to see the effect on the glass. Morada contented herself with rising at dawn, forcing Rani to re-mix the pot-paints in the sleepy hours after she had served up Cook's glutinous porridge.
Now, as the sun lent autumn's warmth to the cathedral wall, Rani stood at the foot of the scaffold. Often, she thought that scaffolding was the reason she had yearned to be a glasswright in the first place. She loved climbing, loved the feeling that she was moving above the workaday world. Slinging Morada's lunch over one shoulder, Rani tossed back her short, black cloak and grasped the narrow wooden supports. Her hands were well-used to climbing, and she started up the structure with a scant breath of prayer to Roan, the god of ladders. Roan had watched over Rani since she first climbed to her bed in the loft of her father's shop.
The touch of wood sliding beneath her fingers was comforting, familiar, and Rani was almost at the top of the scaffold before she realized that the usual rope supports had been pulled up to the plank platform at the top. Before she could question that oddity, she was confronted by Morada's look of outrage. "Ranita! What are you doing here?" Sheer fury coated the Instructor's words as completely as yellow stain on glass, and Rani bowed her head in an apprentice's immediate apology. Morada towered over the girl, the grey streak in her jet hair lashing out like a cruel whip. The Instructor set her bony hands on her hips, and even as Rani averted her gaze, she could make out the spider web of white glass-scars on the woman's fingers.
"I'm sorry Instructor Morada. Guildmistress Salina sent me with your lunch. She said to bring it to you before the Presentation."
"I don't need any lunch! Can't you see I'm finishing the window? I don't have time to be interrupted by a stupid apprentice."
Rani didn't like Morada much under any circumstances, and she was particularly rebellious after her fight through the crowd. It took a full count of ten before she yielded to the guild's precepts. "I am sorry, Instructor, if this apprentice has failed to meet your expectations." Rani remembered to lower her eyes, which was just as well, given the smoldering resentment she was unable to quench completely. In fact, she imagined that her anger gave off the acrid stench of burning. "I beg your pardon, Instructor, and I beg leave to assist you in your work."
"No!" Morada's outraged cry was enough to cause Rani to meet her agate gaze, even though she knew she would pay for the insolence. The cold hatred that greeted her sent a shiver down the girl's spine. Morada was not taunting her with an Instructor's typical cool superiority; she was not channeling the tight rage that Instructors reserved for slow or recalcitrant students. Rather, the woman's lips were white with suppressed fury, and she lurched threateningly to where Rani huddled on the edge of the scaffold platform. "Didn't you see that I pulled up the rope support? Even you are old enough to know when Instructors do not wish to be disturbed."
Rani's eyes darted to the pile of rope beside the scaffold's wooden ladder, coiled high against the cathedral's stone wall. "Instructor, I merely acted on Guildmistress Salina's orders -"
"Apprentice, you 'merely' violated one of the most basic guild rules. If you want to do anything other than grind paint for the next ten years, I strongly advise you to stop talking back to your superiors and leave this scaffold. Now." Rani wanted to explain, to soothe Morada with a joke and a story, but the Instructor's fury cut her off. Under guild rules, Morada was wholly in the right, even if Rani had had no choice but to follow Guildmistress Salina's instructions.
Rani set the basket of food carefully on the scaffold platform, edging aside a coil of lead stripping.
Lead stripping had no place at the cathedral. The Defender's Window should have been fitted entirely in the workshop, colored glass laid into a sturdy lead frame on the surface of a white-washed table. Now Rani could place the acrid smell she thought she had imagined - Morada had lit a brazier to heat the lead and bend it to her needs. Such a menial task was far beneath an Instructor, especially an Instructor as famed as Morada. And Rani, having witnessed Morada humbling herself to an apprentice's job, was certain to be penalized.
"If you please, Instructor Morada," Rani could hardly speak past the constriction in her throat as she tried desperately not to see the offending metal coil. "Would you like me to tend to the brazier while you finish your work?"
Morada's hand flew faster than Rani could follow, and then the girl's cheek stung; her eyes watered involuntarily against the slap. "I would like you to remember your place, Apprentice. Get your miserable carcass down the scaffold, and return to the guildhall. You have shown nothing but insolence since you were ordered to assist on this window. You merchant-rats are all the same - too stupid to follow directions and too stubborn to learn."
Protest bubbled in Rani's chest, the words fueled by her stinging cheek. Still, Morada was the Instructor, and Rani only needed to swallow twice before managing the guild's formula. "Yes, Instructor, you speak the truth, imparting wisdom to this Apprentice."
"A mynah could say as much. Go, wretch! I'll see you in the Hall of Discipline when I return to the guild."
"Yes, Instructor." Rani turned to the rope guide, ready to toss it down to steady her descent.
"Apprentice!" The word cracked out in the autumn air, brighter than the sunlight on the cathedral's new copper roof. "You climbed up here without the rope. You can certainly make your way down without it."
This time Rani could not keep from gaping at Morada. Anger was one thing Rani constantly set the Instructors' teeth on edge because she had not mastered the obsequious tones of her fellow apprentices. But to be forced to descend the scaffold without the rope, when one was perfectly available.... Rani might have been confident in her climbing skills, but it was a foolish risk to descend without a guide rope. "Or perhaps you'd like a faster way down?" Morada's eyes were furious, and Rani had no doubt that the woman would follow through on her threat - at the very least giving Rani a shove to help her down the wooden ladder.
"No, Instructor." Rani scurried to the platform edge, catching her lower lip in her teeth as she steadied her feet against the suddenly too-smooth wooden rungs. She silently appealed to Roan, and despite one slip in the middle of the structure, the god of ladders guided her feet safely to the ground. Only when she had made her way to the bottom of the scaffold did she indulge the hatred that simmered beneath her heart, spitting onto the ground to get a nasty taste off her tongue. Merchant-rat! Rani's parents had paid good money to get her into the guild - better money than Morada would earn for the Defender's Window, whatever the Instructor's mastery of her craft.
Even now, the guild payment forced Rani's family to live like paupers. Her older brother, Bardo, who had hoped to make his Pilgrimage this year, had had no choice but to postpone his journey. Of course, he could walk the Path of the Gods here in the City, but that was not the same. Every night, as Rani fell asleep in her closet of a room, she tormented herself with the knowledge that she - she alone - was responsible for her family's failure to complete the Pilgrimage and gain immediate passage to the Heavenly Fields upon their deaths, long may those be in the future.
Such speculation drove her to the familiar verge of tears. After all, it wasn't as if she had asked for the privilege of coming to the guild. Certainly, she had shown skills in that direction - even as a toddler, she had enjoyed laying out the trinkets at her father's stall in the marketplace. Unlike Bardo and her other brothers and sisters, she was not interested by the mere glint of sunlight on silver. Unlike her mother, she did not care whether the goods were of the highest quality, imported from mysterious Zarithia. Unlike her father, she did not give a tinker's dam if the till were full at the end of the day.
Rather, she felt the way the goods should look on their table; she knew how the wares could best set off their own attractions. Her parents quickly learned that when she set out the boards, more trinkets were sold. After a brief training period - an apprenticeship, Rani grimaced - she had been assigned that duty on a regular basis. It was her accomplishments that let her merchant family sell more, her skill that permitted her folk to buy her way into the guild.
Now that she lived in the chapter-house, her family was reduced to setting out its own displays, to its unaided attempts to seduce passing customers. So, when Instructor Morada berated Rani for buying her way into the guild, the woman did not know the true edge of her cutting words. Rani had cost her family their spiritual blessings, their savings, and - most importantly - their future, since their stall would not generate equal profits without Rani's gift.
By the time Rani worked her way around to the front of the cathedral, she was completely convinced that her suffering at the guild's unsympathetic hands was unwarranted. She, the poor glasswright's apprentice.... She had done nothing to warrant scorn from her Instructors. She had done nothing to garner the beating that she would certainly get at the hands of the disciplinarian - a beating that would hurt all the more since it would fall on top of the bruises still painted across her back from last week's exploits.
No, there was nothing to be gained by speeding back to the guildhall. And, looking around at the crowd, Rani realized that there was everything to be gained by watching the Presentation. After all, it was not every day that religious ceremonies flooded the City's streets. If the disciplinarian were going to beat her, Rani might as well give him good cause. She might as well enjoy this Presentation Day. And if Larinda had to work harder back at the guildhall, then so much the better. After all, Larinda had let the fire burn down, and turn about was fair play.
Brushing a hand against her still-stinging cheek, Rani began the steady process of worming her way to the front of the crowd. She had a distinct advantage over the other people in the cathedral square - because she was dressed in an apprentice's somber uniform, her short tunic of black wool and her simple cape left her free to dart into places that appeared smaller than a toddler. For once, she was grateful that she was short for her age. At one point, though, she pushed too hard, and a velvet-clad woman - the wife of a Soldier by her complicated hairpiece - reached out a jeweled hand to grab at Rani's shoulders. The glasswrights' apprentice actually laughed out loud as she evaded the woman's grip, darting forward in the ranks as the woman's absurdly stiffened gown forbade her from following.
Excerpted from The Glasswrights' Apprentice by Mindy L. Klasky. Copyright © 2010 Mindy L. Klasky. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
(Dennis McKiernan, author of Silver Wolf, Black Falcon)
Meet the Author
Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her that she could travel anywhere in the world through stories. She never forgot that advice.
Mindy's travels took her through multiple careers. After graduating from Princeton University, Mindy considered becoming a professional stage manager or a rabbi. Ultimately, though, she settled on being a lawyer, working as a litigator at a large Washington firm. When she realized that lawyering kept her from writing (and dating and sleeping and otherwise living a normal life), Mindy became a librarian, managing large law firm libraries. Mindy now writes full time.
For years, Mindy's dating life was a travel extravaganza as well. She balanced twenty-eight first dates in one year, selecting eligible gentlemen from sources as varied as Washingtonian magazine ads, Single Volunteers of D.C., and supposedly-certain recommendations from best friends. Ultimately, she swore off the dating scene entirely. After two years of carefully-enforced datelessness, she made one last foray onto Match.com, where she met her husband—on her first match.
Mindy's travels have also taken her through various literary genres. In addition to her Red Dress Ink books, Mindy has written numerous short stories and six fantasy novels, including the award-winning, best-selling The Glasswrights' Apprentice.
In her spare time, Mindy quilts, cooks, and tries to tame the endless to-be-read shelf in her home library. Her husband and cats do their best to fill the left-over minutes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Fast paced, with a good, sturdy story-line, that is captivating throughout each book in the series.
With all those 5-start ratings, I expected to like this book and the series. Wow, was I disappointed. The plot is interesting, and the caste concept original; however, I found the characters highly annoying, and the dialogue melodramatic -- felt like I was watching a teenage soap opera -- everything was overdone.
The first time I saw this book, I bought it because it was the only book that looked remotely interesting, but once I started to read it, I couldn't put it down. I loved it and I recommended it to all of my friends. A must read.
This book was magnificent. I've read it over and over again, and I'm still not tired of it. I found the conspiricy within the book to be most interesting. The castes were well thought, and I think that the extra add ons to names is very interesting. From what I understood, a one syllable name, such as 'Rai' means you belong to the Touched caste. If a name ends with an 'i' you are a merchant. If your name ends with a 'ta' you are a guild member. If it ends with 'mara' you are a soldier, or of the caste. If it ends with something like 'Kaleka' then you are of noble blood. I found this book to be ranked with me favorites; I hope others will too.
This absorbing, well-crafted novel invites you into the heart of Rani's world and keeps you there effortlessly. The setting and characters are well thought out. The plot is intricate but not confusing. Overall, a wonderful read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next in the series.
Well written, but plagued by 'first of a series' syndrome; it rushes to introduce a lot in a short period of time while giving little focus or development to most of the characters, and the story has no clear resolution. Definitely a worthwhile book if you enjoy series', but not recommended if you're looking for a quick stand-alone read.
It's been a long time since I've read something as refreshing and new in fantasy as this book is. I became seriously frustrated whenever I had to put it down. I love character development throughout the book and there were times I wasn't sure what tough choice was going to be made. I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment.
In the Kingdom of Morenia, the caste system is sacred so when Rani Trader showed talent as a glasswright, her family beggared themselves to buy her an apprenticeship. Although Rani understands the honor bestowed on her by her family and the importance of performing her duties, she remains a young teenager who wants some fun. Rani visits the Cathedral to see the pomp and circumstances as the very popular Prince Tuvashanoran assumes the mantle of Defender of the Faith. While watching the festivities, Rani observes an archer aiming his weapon at the Prince. She shouts out a warning that is too late to save Tuvashanoran¿s life. Everyone misunderstands Rani¿s role in the tragedy, believing she is a conspirator. Rani escape and heads back to the guild followed by soldiers. The Glasswrights¿ Guild is declared as outlaws. Rani manages to sneak away again even as she realizes the entire nation hunts her down as a murderous traitor. While seeking shelter in an unsafe world, Rani stumbles across the secrets of the Brotherhood, a group wanting to eradicate the caste system. Rani tries to balance staying alive with doing the right thing for her family, her king, and her country. Mindy L. Klasky has written a fine fantasy novel that explores the culture of another world with many similarities to that of our own. The tale is a fast-paced action thriller that has wide appeal to readers who enjoy well-designed political and social backgrounds in their fictions. Rani is a wonderful heroine overcoming many obstacles just to remain alive, but clearly this novel is a winner because of the depth of the culture described by Ms. Klasky which makes for a real world setting. Harriet Klausner