Joanna Marsden follows the reliable tradition of some of children’s literature’s greatest writers in The Glass Key.
Marsden’s debut follows the unexpected journeys of Toby and Belle, two teenagers who discover a portal to a different world during a casual hike in the woods. The passport to a fantasy realm comes in the form of the titular glass key, an object that eventually transports the pair to a vaguely medieval world known as “The Far Past Time.”
It’s a setting that boasts elements from all of the best-known fantasy tales: Evil wizards, magic spells and mystical forces are common in this new world. Toby and Belle must work with newfound allies to free innocents from the threat of a storybook villain, even as they search for a way to get back home.
Marsden’s narrative arc recalls the mystical trip through the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ definitive series, one that vaguely echoes Alice’s strange trip down the rabbit-hole in Lewis Carroll’s magnum opus. Indeed, the author’s story aims to hook young readers with tried-and-true plot structures that have marked the best children’s literature for hundreds of years.
In the process, Marsden manages to stake out a bit of her own creative ground. With well-paced prose that moves quickly and clearly, Marsden paints vivid character portraits and summons action scenes that are bound to entice young readers. The Glass Key is a quick, uncomplicated foray into a richly imagined world, and could prove a gateway to more established classics.
This isn’t the best option for veteran fans of the genre, or for older readers looking for a grittier take on tales about wizards, magic and faraway worlds; the book doesn’t explore much new territory, and the narration is geared toward younger readers with its straightforward structure and tame action. For newcomers to long-form fantasy, however, The Glass Key could very well serve as an ideal bridge to further exploration of the genre.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.