The Glass Maker's Daughter, by V. Briceland (Flux, April 2009)
In a city much like medieval Venice stand seven great houses, each with its own enchanted craft, each bound to the magic of Cassaforte and its king. Sixteen year-old Risa is the daughter of one of the seven--the house where glass makers create windows that do not break, vases that keep flowers fresh, and glasses that do not shatter. Every night she has thrilled to the sound of her father blowing the great horn of her family, answering the note blown from the king's own horn in an ancient rite of fealty. And she has always known that she will follow in the family tradition, attending one of the two schools for her caste, and learning the magic of glass working for herself.
The gods who govern the schools, however, don't need her. Angry and ashamed, she no longer knows what her future holds. Her own unenchanted glass works, beautiful though they are, are unwanted.
But Risa has only a few days to brood before her parents, along with the heads of all the other great houses, disappear into the king's palace, and the enchantments that hold her city together begin to unravel. With the help of two young guards, brother and sister, Risa must keep her family's house from shattering (literally), and unravel the plot that threatens all who keep faith with the covenants of the past. Her journey through the canals and twisted streets of her city takes her far from the sheltered daughter of privilege she had been, and leads her to the heart of the old magic, woven into the king's own crown, that only she has the power to understand.
Those who like heroines who have to figure things out--with regard to the entanglements of plot, with regard to their own abilities, and with regard to human relationships (in this case, a very engaging guard), should like Risa very much. The plot itself might not be wildly original, but I loved the magic of the city, especially the integration of enchantment into everyday things- I do so enjoy books that describe craftsmen at work. Briceland is himself a glass artist, and his knowledge comes through clearly. I would have liked even more about the glass making, but you can't have everything....
The book suffers a bit from a slow start. There's rather more telling than showing, and there are a few awkward transitions. But about midway, the pace picks up and moves briskly toward an exciting ending.
(I received an ARC of this book from the publisher--it will be released in April).