An truly original modern fairy tale

The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

This novel is that rare thing – a thoroughly grown-up modern fairy tale that works. It’s also a beautifully designed book with an evocative cover and silver page edging.

It is set in a remote cluster of islands around an archipelago called St Hauda’s land which feels as if it’s somewhere like the Faroes, or Newfoundland – definitely northern and slightly Nordic. A land where “strange winged creatures flit around icy bogland; albino animals hide themselves in the snow-glazed woods; jellyfish glow in the ocean’s depths.”

Midas is a local, estranged from his mother and still reeling from the death of his father. He’s in not in a hurry to start anything new, instead he diverts his emotions into his photography. Ida, meanwhile, visited St Hauda’s Land six months ago on holiday, but since then something strange is happening to her – her feet are starting to turn to glass. She’s returned to see if she can find a cure, for the glass which started at her toes is creeping further, she is already hobbling on her crystallising feet.

Midas bumps into Ida out on the hills and they strike up a rather awkward friendship. For both of them, it is really love at first sight, but neither realises this yet. Ida has to take the initiative:

“The simplest thing you could do to help …Like I said before … I am frightened. I can’t feel my toes, for God’s sake. I don’t know where I end and my socks and boots begin. You could, if it’s not too much trouble, just hang around.”
He stood up. He supposed in a movie this would be the moment where he put his arm around her waist and said something manly. At the very least he’d place a firm hand on her shoulder. But his arms were dead.
‘Okay,’ he said, ‘that shouldn’t be a problem.’

Sometimes you just want to knock their heads together! Midas has buried his emotions so deeply, and they’re both too quick to take umbrage with each other – love is hard work for this pair. You just have to hope that they work it out – their romance, and what’s happening to Ida. There are no easy answers for them in their journey.

I won’t spoil the story, but you’ll need a hanky before the end of this wonderful other-worldly tale. I loved it. (10/10)

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11 thoughts on “An truly original modern fairy tale

  1. what a great review, especially as I have just started reading it and don't want to know the end! I am liking it so far. It feels very Christmassy, somehow 🙂

  2. Nymeth, Kathryn,I loved this one. When I was just a couple of chapters in I was having a sort of 'The Shipping News' feel (which boded well), then the otherworldly elements start to kick in and it got very different (and brilliant in a slightly odd way). I Hope you feel the same when/if you get to read it.

  3. Good, isn't it? But I do have one quibble – the thick pages keep foxing me. I turn over thinking I've got two stuck together only to remember that no, it's just lovely thick paper.Clearly, I am not terribly bright.

  4. I heard about this for the first time last week and loved the premise. I'm so pleased to hear that you enjoyed it and I've just added it to my wishlist too!

  5. I saw that cover somewhere or other a while back and thought it was gorgeous but knew nothing about the book. And I know that gorgeous cover does not equal good book, but from your description, this does look like a good one!

  6. Jackie, Teresa, Meghan, It was a lovely book. It's also been nominated for the Costa first novel award. I was slightly surprised to find that the author is a 'he' not a 'she', as Ali is usually the latter round here, he was able to show Midas' emotional paralysis so well.

  7. Sorry, am a bit late to this post. The book sounds absolutely gorgeous… and onto the wishlist it goes.

  8. Sorry, am a bit late to this post. The book sounds absolutely gorgeous… and onto the wishlist it goes.

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