The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Girl with Glass Feet from

Author: Ali Shaw
Publisher: Picador
Copyright Date: 2011
Foundational Characters: Ida Maclaird, Midas Crook, Gustav, Denver, Henry Fuwa, Carl Maulsen
Standard Rating: YA
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312680457
ISBN-13: 978-0312680459
Book Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
Page Count: 304
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Fantasy, British, Dark, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
Tags: Fiction, Fantasy, British, Adult Language, Alcohol use, Adult language, Dark, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance



WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZEStrange things are happening on the remote and snowbound archipelago of St. Hauda’s Land. Magical winged creatures flit around the icy bogland, albino animals hide themselves in the snow-glazed woods, and Ida Maclaird is slowly turning into glass. Ida is an outsider in these parts who has only visited the islands once before. Yet during that one fateful visit the glass transformation began to take hold, and now she has returned in search of a cure.

The Girl with Glass Feet is a love story to treasure, “crafted with elegance and swept by passionate magic and the yearning for connection. A rare pleasure” (Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love). (From the publisher’s website and the back cover of the book)

The Revelation

On St. Hauda’s Land, the season is winter. It is cold, and the wind blows off of the ocean, bringing with it the smell of salt. Bogs separate the land from the ocean. The skies are almost constantly gray and overcast, presuming the arrival of rain or snow, even when the next storm may be days away. This is the setting of The Girl with Glass Feet. St. Hauda’s Land is the kind of place that you want to leave as soon as you can, and never want to return to, unless you have to.

Ida McLaird had to return. You see, her feet are turning to glass, and along with them, the rest of her body. She wants to know why she is turning to glass, and also if she can be cured. Once, during a summer visit, she heard strange talk in the town about people who had turned completely to glass. Their bodies lay in the bogs. One man, the man she returned to search for, seems to have the answers to her questions. She wants to find Henry Fuwa and ask for his help. In the mean time, Ida meets Midas, the only child of a brilliant but distant father and a recluse of a mother, whose personality is a bleak and gray as the landscape he grew up with. He is at once a photographer and a reluctant hero. He lives alone in his flat and works at a flower shop, which provides his life, and the reader, with the only real color in the story-and those are just glimpses at best. Midas finds out about what is happening to Ida’s feet, and after some coaxing, goes against everything he is made of and helps Ida figure out what needs to be done to stop the glass from taking over her body.

The Girl with Glass Feet is the winner of the 2010 Desmond Elliott Prize. Before picking up this book, I had never heard of this prize before, and I was intrigued by not only the book, but also by the prize it had won. I researched the Prize and found on its website that its purpose is to, “look for a novel of depth and breadth with a compelling narrative. The work should be vividly written and confidently realised and should contain original and arresting characters.” Robin Romm, in reviewing the novel for The New York Times, saw the novel as a disease metaphor. Ida’s purpose becomes finding a cure for her glass ailment, and Midas, though reluctantly, joins her search.

I will concede that this was an imaginative story, and it was written very well. Shaw put his A-game on when he penned the novel. However, the journey did not fully justify the destination. In other words, the narrative itself was not as entertaining as it was creative. Shaw had a really good idea, but as I seem to state over and over again, he didn’t do what he could have done with it. The narrative was about as entertaining as the bogs of St. Hauda’s Land-gray and brown and soggy all over. It took me over two months to get through this book, and it didn’t keep my attention very well while I read. I was only able to read 10 to 20 pages at a time before I wanted to move on to the rest of my day. As I read the novel, my prevailing thought was, when is something finally going to happen? Don’t get me wrong-the storyline progresses from one page to the next, but nothing really happens. I found myself getting frustrated on multiple occasions. The characters experience movement, and the setting shifts all over St. Hauda’s Land, and the narrative moves from point A to point B, but you may find, as I did, that you are two-thirds of the way through the book and ask yourself, “What the heck is going on here? Where has my time investment gone?”

In the end, I made it through the book only to discover that the ending justified (though not fully) everything that came before. Sixty pages from the end of the novel, I was almost sure there was little hope of finding any purpose in the story. Then I came across a quote that struck me as the central point of the story. Carl Maulsen says this to Midas Crook: “I think places take hold of us and we become mere parts of the landscape, taking on its quirks and follies. There are places on the mainland-perhaps you are too young to understand this-I can’t return to without feeling, without becoming, things I had thought tidied up and finished off” (262). If you find yourself reading the novel wondering what this quote has to do with the whole, you may catch glimpses along the way, but you will not fully grasp its full meaning until the very last page-literally. Until then, be patient with Midas, Ida, Henry, Carl, and their past. It will make sense soon enough.

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Girl with Glass Feet from

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