Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

The Glass Projector The Witches of Autumn 1: The Glass Projector
by J. E. Ryan
Steam Press

Supplied for review by Steam Press

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

It is a bit of a departure for Steam Press to publish a work which is not only by a writer they have previously published, but also one which is the first of a series. Aimed at young adults, The Witches of Autumn is what one could define as an alternative universe steampunk fantasy. You can tell that it’s steampunk because there are zeppelins, mad scientists, wondrous gadgets and a hearty dose of derring-do. There is even a proper old-fashioned villain with a twirling moustache! It qualifies as fantasy because it has that magical element, unusually inventive in that the magic is a product of the bond between magician and familiar, the familiar being a ghost who takes the form of an animal. So you already know that this novel is definitely going to be different. The story is set in the city of Autumn which is engaged in an apparently interminable war with nation called Rumland, giving the novel something of a First World War background. But it’s not a war story… It’s more of a treasure hunt, a quest for a lost library of forgotten magic. It’s the story of how a young magician named Thistle together with her familiar Mappo the bat, and her friends Mr Pepper the gargoyle, and Epona the snark become embroiled in the search for an ancient library once discovered by the mysterious Witches of Autumn. And naturally in the process they find the eponymous Glass Projector. But I’m not going to tell you what it does…

This novel has interesting and distinctive characters, a strong plot, and a unique background. It ends (appropriately for its genre) on something of a cliff-hanger, and I have to say that I am genuinely looking forward to the next one. What’s more I’m quite certain I would have enjoyed this book as a child, and I suspect that it will appeal to many an imaginative young reader - and to older readers too.

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