THE ORACLE GLASS by Judith Merkle Riley

I’d never heard of Judith Merkle Riley or The Oracle Glass before the day I bought it. I was wondering around Chapters, which long-time readers will know is probably the best way to fine me on a weekend, when someone came up and gave me one of those you could win as much as 50% off your entire purchase as long as you spend at least $30 kind of promotions, so I was on the hunt for one more book to take me over the amount and just figured I would put the book back if my discount wasn’t significant. By the time I got to the cash I couldn’t bear to part with the book, even though I only saved about $2 on it, and I’m glad I didn’t.

The Oracle Glass is set in Paris, the most romantic city in the world during the late 1600s, in the time of Louis the XIV when the occult and witchcraft were at the height of popularity with the French aristocracy. It centers around the life of Genevieve Pasquier, a young girl who is taken under the wing of La Voisin, the Queen of Shadows and her….let’s call them adventures.

I was first drawn to Riley’s book because it was historical fiction, which I quite enjoy but was still out of my typical milieu of that genre (since it takes place after the Fall of Rome). I’d never heard of Judith Merkle Riley and it was only after reading the book that I investigated further and found out that she’s a native of California and died in September 2010. A quick read of her bio revealed that she was a woman after my own heart, a lover of books. In addition to The Oracle Glass, Riley wrote several other historical novels; to see a full list, please click here.

Mlle Pasquier did not have an easy home life. Beware! Spoilers ahead! She was much beloved by her father and rather hated by her mother due to her deformity. After her father’s untimely death, Genevieve escapes her family and before she can commit suicide is recruited by La Voisin, the Queen of Shadows. La Voisin makes Genevieve into her protégé because Genevieve can is a water reader. (She can read a person’s future in the pictures she sees in the water.) La Voisin clothes her, trains her, creates an alternate past for her to permanently escape her family and then sends her out into the world to make money both for herself and for La Voisin. By the time she is in her early twenties, Genevieve has experienced rather a lot, but then, people didn’t live so long then as they do now, so that’s to be expected. I found the characters to be a little bit clichéd but not so much as to take away from their robustness. (Meaning they were still appealingly “real” characters) but the true beauty of the story was in Riley’s ability to paint the city of Paris and its inhabitants so that you could, if you squinted just right, almost see them shimmering in the air before you. She captures the attitudes of the era perfectly (rife with superstition, discrimination and pomposity). Her one failing is in the occasional slip into modern vernacular (I doubt anyone who lived in the time of the Sun King would have said “Hey!” to get someone’s attention, let alone a Parisian who would have found the exclamation the height of vulgarity).

The bottom line, I would definitely recommend the book if you enjoy the genre, or if you’re looking for a really cheap trip to Paris and have a good imagination. And should I come across another of Riley’s books in the future, I won’t hesitate to add it next to The Oracle Glass on my book shelf.

 

And that’s my 2¢ for today.

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~ by leslies2cents on December 14, 2012.

2 Responses to “THE ORACLE GLASS by Judith Merkle Riley”

  1. Very good write-up. I certainly appreciate this site.

    Keep it up!

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