I recently finished re-reading the Glasswrights series by Mindy L. Klasky. I have so much love for this series, y'all. I don't even know.
Okay, okay, maybe I do.
"If you want to be safe... mind your caste. In a kingdom where all is measured by birthright, moving up in society is almost impossible. Which is why young Rani Trader's merchant family sacrifices nearly everything to buy their daughter an apprenticeship in the Glasswrights' Guild - where honor and glory will be within her reach.Rani is strong, independent, and crafty. She's a negotiater by birth, a guildsman by profession, and a noble by association. She works with what she has and she tries to do her best, but she's also flawed, and screws up in big ways. In every book she's forced to make difficult, terrible choices that don't end with everything working out okay.
But being in the wrong place at the wrong time places Rani in the middle of a terrible conspiracy that leaves the Royal Prince dead - and her guild torn asunder. Branded a traitor, she slinks through the city streets, changing her identity to avoid being caught. And as Rani rises from the city slums to the royal household, she uncovers an elusive brotherhood whose deadly venom reaches out to stain the heart of her guild, the heart of her family - and the heart of her king...." #
It's this theme of choices that I really love. This isn't a super dense, hugely detail-oriented epic fantasy, but it brings out some of epic fantasy's best qualities because the gambles and sacrifices she makes, that she must make. She pushes her own story forward, even when she's a lost child on the streets of Moren, wanted for murder and despised by the Guild that she left to die. And these aren't black and white choices with which she eventually makes her peace, either; they're neither wrong nor right, and she wrestles with them throughout the rest of the series.
Another wonderful facet is the healthy perspective on women's sexuality. Rani is involved in more than one relationship throughout the series and her opinions on sex and the opinions of those around her are all positive. It's incredible seeing a woman's sexuality and sexual relationships acknowledged as both worthwhile and fulfilling in a novel that is firmly a fantasy (rather than a romance). The men she becomes involved with are flawed, for sure, but refreshingly normal. They're more than aware (and comfortable with the fact) that Rani is a self-assured, capable woman, and they don't overshadow her or attempt to save the day.
It's an incredible, incredible series, and the cover art is gorgeous. Don't miss it.
The Glasswrights' Apprentice at Barnes & Noble. More reviews at Goodreads.