” She is magnificent, dishevelled, and diminished though she is—a queen indeed, unassailable, unconquerable, her beauty transfigured into something strange and unearthly. I wonder how I could ever have believed that I could overcome her. It is only too plain. She has overcome me, despite all my strategems, all the tricks I had devised, under Madame’s instructions, to bring her down. ” [35:528]
Building onto the events and their aftermath in The Meaning of Night, The Glass of Time digs even deeper into the secrets that provoke and justify Edward Glyver’s calculated, punctilious murder in the first novel. It is difficult to discuss the sequel without referring to the events of its predecessor (spoiler alert for The Meaning of Night): Lady Emily Tansor née Cateret, knowing that her father, who was then secretary of the 25th Baron Tansor, was in possession of documents that would prove Edward Glyver’s birthright and therefore deprive her lover, Phoebus Daunt, of his baronial expectations, planned an attack in complicity with Daunt on her father in order to snatch the papers. But the person about the mission exceeded his commission. Edward Glyver’s own mother, Lady Laura Tansor, had on purpose and out of spite kept from her husband all knowledge of his son’s birth. As a result, Edward grew up in sheer ignorance of his true identity. When he discovered that Lord Tansor’s resolve to leave Phoebus Daunt, his arch enemy, the rightful inheritance, his antagonism and bitter envy towards Phoebus reanimated.
She was strong in wealth, mighty in inherited rank and authority; but she was weak and defenceless in this perpetual servitude to the memory of Phoebus Daunt. [13:209]
The Glass of Time concerns the events after Edward Glyver killed Phoebus Daunt and finds Lady Tansor in her early fifties. Despite her wealth and charming allure, she is rather lonesome, slowly eaten away by her enslaving memory to Daunt. All the secrets and evidence of fraud that helped her gain the title of nobility are safely buried until one Madame de l’Orme is contrived to send nineteen-year-old Alice Gorst into Evenwood, where she will become Lady Tansor’s maid. Under Madame’s instructions via surreptitious missives, Alice is to become the Lady’s complaisant and acquiescent companion that Her Ladyship craves—-although Alice is reminded that the Lady is always her enemy. Her ultimate goal is to bring her down.
But with every smile she gave me, every soft touch of her hand on mine, every affectionate look, the harder it became for me to believe that she was my enemy, whom I had been sent to destroy. Already I could feel myself falling prey to her subtle charms, which I knew I must resist, or all would be lost. [18:278]
As Alice pries into the Lady’s secrets, the novel proceeds with an exciting and giddy swiftness. All the insidious schemes, secrets, and double dealing aside, the novel expounds on the power of love as well as its danger. Lady Tansor’s cardinal but blind passion for Phoebus Daunt becomes a weakness because it deprives her of reason, rendering her bereft of attachment to anyone. That emptiness in her becomes an opportunity for Alice to insinuate into her life for the purpose of retribution. Consequence of love can be as dire as the commission of murder and to self-destruction. As for Alice herself, as truth to be revealed, he has loved and trusted only to be given deception and lies in return. On top of revenge, the book is about the struggles to honor one’s personal history, to break free of the weight (mistakes) of the past, and to form lasting ties even while holding on to secrets kept in plain sight. I am pulled in different directions by the competing claims of Lady Tansor and Alice Gorst, who are brought together by sinful legacy, in a clash between emotion, friendship, and the demands of justice.
583 pp. [Read/
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