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“Nobility is a privilege and a duty. Being born with a home, a fortune, a talent—whatever it is that sets you apart—that’s a challenge, to care for others and do not harm with what you’ve been given,” David Ferro in a letter to his son, Soren. –Daughters of Steel
Daughters of Steel
Sisters of Glass #2
by Naomi Cyprus
AR Test, Strong Female Character
Halan was a powerless princess. Now, she’s the queen of the Magi Kingdom, a blazing desert land where magic rules. Without any power, Halan wonders if she can be the queen her people need.
Nalah was a poor girl, from a kingdom that feared magic. Now she’s the Queen’s Sword, standing beside Halan at the helm of the kingdom. The more Nalah’s uncontrolled powers grow, the more dangerous they become. Will Nalah’s fear of her magic’s power cause her to hurt the people she cares about?
Nalah goes on a quest to discover how to control her powers. While she is gone, a friend from her world travels through the Transcendent Mirror asking for help. Halan decides to go through the mirror and help the Thaumas of New Hadar. As a dark threat draws closer, can Nalah and Halan reunite to save both worlds?
The second installment of the Sisters of Glass series continues the saga of Nalah and Halan; both girls need to learn valuable truths that will help them become leaders. Halan wants to be a good queen—one that will “stand up for people, do the hard things when it needs to be done, even if it means putting her own life on the line.” When Halan travels to New Hadar, she highlights the importance of caring for others, no matter their station in life. At one point, she tells her friend Marcus (a market boy), that “Your life and your brother’s and the lives of every single soul being held by the Hokmet are just as valuable as mine. If I were to put my safety above that of others, then I would be a very poor leader indeed.”
Nalah takes her own journey, where she must face several challenges. Throughout her journey, she learns that everything must have balance and that she has to prove her own worth to herself. Even though Nalah learns important lessons during her travels, even younger readers may have a hard time believing some of the unrealistic events. For example, even though no one has ever returned from a journey into the desert, Nalan is able to cross the desert in two days, albeit she gets injured. Nalah is also able to perform advanced magic, with no new instruction; she even successfully performs a healing magic spell that her mother could not control.
Through the sisters’ experiences, readers will explore the qualities of a good leader, as well as think about the nature of good and evil. At one point, Halan thinks about those who care for their own safety and questions, “Or was witnessing evil and doing nothing about it just as bad as doing it yourself?”
Daughters of Steel has a complicated plot, graphic violence, and a ritual that requires collecting people’s blood. The story jumps back and forth between Nalah’s point of view and Halan’s point of view, which makes the story confusing at times. Although Sisters of Steel gives readers thought-provoking questions to consider, readers who are only interested in reading about sisters in a magical world may want to read The Unicorn Quest, which has less violence.
- When a beam falls on a man, Nalah uses magic to try to help him. Nalah felt “for the splinters in the wood’s core, she concentrated on them and willed them to open like a wound. The beam split apart under her hands. . . The man trapped underneath let out a pained gasp as the beam was dragged off his lower torso. Blood was flowing freely from the legs of his trousers, where a jagged spur of bone was poking through his skin.”
- Nalah accidently sets the building on fire. Workers begin throwing water on the fire, but it doesn’t help. “The workers backed up as fast as they could as the whole structure started to topple. It crashed to the ground in a shower of sparks, and there was a scream as part of it flew off and caught a young woman square in the chest. She dropped and rolled, and people ran to help her.
- When Marcus jumps through the Transcendent Mirror, a soldier follows him. The soldier “lunged, swinging his heavy stick, and Halan had to push Marcus aside as she dived out of the way. Marcus toppled to the ground, quickly scooting away until his back rammed up against a bookshelf. . .” Halan throws a bottle of sleepsand at the soldier, and “he recoiled, staggering, and then crashing to the floor. Halan felt some satisfaction seeing that he landed face down in his own spittle.”
- When Soren and Nalah begin a journey, a group of people surround them. Someone grabs Soren, and he “was on his knees, his arms twisted behind his back by one of the men, a knife held to his throat by another.” Nalah wonders, “Could she take on twelve armed adults—some possibly wielding Thauma weapons?” Nalah doesn’t fight, but gives herself up. A man makes her put on gloves that will not allow Thauma magic to “transmute skin.”
- A group of people captures Soren and Nalah, and as the two are being transported a man hits Soren. “The man punched him hard in the stomach and he doubled over, gasping for breath as he was pulled through another door, which slammed with a clang.” Nalah is taken to another room somewhere. “Nalah had not given up, but she was helpless to stop them from dragging her over to a wide wooden table in the center of the workshop. They thrust her against it hard enough that it pushed all the air from her lungs. . . one of the women had leaned over and seized her wrist, pulling it across a table to rest palm up across a shallow metal bowl. The woman snapped a shackle over her arm and another over her other wrist, so that she was pinned down, the edge of the table digging into her stomach.” The capture of Soren and Nalah takes place over ten pages.
- In order to escape an enforcer, “Marcus lobbed an old kettle across the room, striking the Enforcer on the shoulder. The man tripped over a box and landed on his back on the floor, cursing with words she’d [Halan had] never heard before. . .” Halan and Marcus go through a trap door. Then “the Enforcer burst out from the trapdoor, and by the time he saw the pole coming toward him it was too late. Powered by panic, the blow hit home, and the man dropped like a stone and sprawled there, unconscious.”
- Trying to get Marcus and Halan to come out of a house, Enforcers throw a smoke bomb into the house. “the smoke tasted foul and bitter, and it snaked into her lungs and began to choke her.” They are able to escape.
- Nalah is captured and tied up, and her wrist is cut so that her blood will flow into a bowl. She feels pain, “and then there was numbness, and then there was pain again. Nalah’s arm throbbed and her vision swam. Her knees gave out, but the manacles held her in place, still stretched over the table. Her shoulders and her calves ached from the strain.” Nalah tried to focus on other things, but “the stinging agony of the cut on her wrist always brought her back.
- After some of Nalah’s blood is drained, two men come into the room. One man “was dragging Soren behind him. His hands and legs were bound, and there was a bloom of purple across one side of his face where he’d been struck, but at least he had the right number of eyes.”
- In order to escape, Soren “grabbed the metal ruler from the bench and held it out in front of him, twirling it in his fingers like a scimitar. . . The man lunged at Soren, clashing his sword so hard against Soren’s ruler that sparks flew from the impact. . . With a flourish of her arm, Nalah sent the glowing chain whipping across the attacker’s back. His clothing sizzled at its touch, and the man cried out in pain. Nalah pulled the chain back in and whipped it again, driving the man into the corner of the room like a lion tamer.” Nalah and Soren get out of the room, but encounter more people. “The nobles rushed at them. Soren parried one blow and got a hard swipe across the shoulders of one of the women, drawing blood. But then he had to duck and roll under the table to avoid the swords of the other three nobles. Nalah spotted a box full of threads and ran over to scoop them up in her hands. Twisting some of the threads around her fingers, she concentrated on imbuing them with magical energy and speed. When the woman vaulted over a table to swing her sword at Soren, Nalah flung out her hands toward her. The threads shot out like arrows, winding around the woman’s wrist and waist, binding her. . . One of the nobles had got under his guard and stuck a short knife right into his belly. Soren choked and doubled up, the ruler dropping from his hand with a clang.” The capture, blood gathering, and escape takes place over two chapters.
- As part of a test, Nalah must face a wolf. “The flickering light picked out the hundreds of tiny blades that formed its coat, two serrated metal ears, and a jaw that disguised rows of metal teeth. . . Nalah yelped and dived aside as it punted, snapping at the air where her throat had been. . . The creature’s snarling head twisted in midair, and its teeth closed on Nalah’s leg. She screamed. The pain spiked up through her body as the wolf’s fangs sank into her flesh. Half blind with agony, Nalah threw back her head and channeled her breath into a burst of heat that struck the wolf right in the mouth. It yelped and let her go, recoiling, pawing at its face.”
- Enforcers try to capture Nalah and Marcus. Marcus “struck, stabbing the tip of the knife into the soft exposed flesh where the Enforcer’s show met the bottom of his still trouser.” Marcus uses a magic knife, so the Enforcer cannot speak and call for help. Later, they find other Enforcers, and “Marcus lunged wildly at one of the Enforcers with his knife and then tried to bolt around them, but the other one was too quick and gave him a stunning blow across the back of the neck with his truncheon. He sprawled on the floor and the knife skittered out of his hand. . .” Marcus is captured.
- A man grabs someone with a glove “made of deep green iridescent fabric, like a beetle’s shell. As soon as he touched the bare skin, the man’s hand spasmed and turned ashen gray, the flesh seeming to sag and shrink away. . . the hand, which continued to wither with each passing second.”
- Tam grabs Halan and “seized her wrist, twisting it up behind her back. She gasped as he pressed his knife to her chest. . . The pain was worse than what Halan had been prepared for. She let out a sobbing yell as Tam dragged his knife across her arm, holding it out over the crystal bowl. Blood cascaded down the blade and dripped into the black pool in long, viscous strings.” Tam attempts to kill Halan, but before he does Tam is killed when “his back hit the altar with a sickening crunch, and he wheeled away and struck the wall that was peppered with the shards of his crystal bowl. Tam hung there for a second and then slid down the wall and lay still.”
- A man throws sand into the air. “Most of the soldiers managed to duck and shield their faces, but a few were too slow as the sand melted and twisted into tiny shards of glass and flew at them. Two men fell to the ground, gasping and clutching at their faces, blood beginning to seep from a thousand tiny wounds.” The man “reached out to grasp the branch of a nearby tree. Suddenly, all the trees in the garden began to whip their branches around wildly. Two of the soldiers were knocked on their backs, and three more standing too close let out choking screams as the branches wrapped around them, hugging them tight to the trunks of the trees.”
- A man grabs Halan’s ankle with a glove. “Something seized Halan’s ankle, feeling like a hundred biting insects were all stinging her skin at once. She screamed and tried to pull away, but the grip tightened. Halan’s vision swam and she reeled, losing her balance and hitting the ground hard. She held up a hand and watched as her skin turned gray and began to wither before her eyes.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- In New Hader, several people refer to those who can do magic as “Thauma scum.”
- “God” is used as an exclamation once. Someone says, “God, I was so worried. . .”
- A man tells Nalah, “You’re too young, too stupid to have these powers, you see? They should never have come to you—they’re wasted on you. You’re not even from this world! You’re a street rat, a guttersnipe. . .”
- Several times, someone calls a person an “idiot.”
- When Marcus encounters a dark figure, he asks, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
- Thaumas have magical powers that allow them to make things with one element—glass, metal, tapestry, wood, etc.
- In the story, each world has a tawam, which is another version of themselves. When Halan goes to the other world she recognizes Ester. “This girl was New Hadar’s version of Ester—her tawam! Not everybody from the two worlds had a tawam—Ester’s ancestors must have survived the quakes, met and had children, and their children met the same people and had children, and on down the generations, for hundreds of years.”
- Halan and Nalah have the ability to “communicate through their thoughts, a benefit of their special bond. They’d quickly gotten used to using it, sending each other messages even when they were in the same room.”
- When Halan finds an orb and looks into it, she sees a vision. Halan wonders, “Is this another vision of the future?”
- When Nalah looks into an orb, she sees a vision. During the vision, “the eye focused on Nalah, and she felt as if in one glance it had seen her whole life, every moment she’d lived and every moment still to come. You are lost, Child of the Clan, said a deafening voice that seemed to come from the mountains themselves. Take the journey and be found.” Because of the vision, Nalah takes a journey to a shrine.
- Nalah is given an Aqua Needle. “Nalah was fascinated when she first saw the hollow wooden stake, its end sharpened to a point. Apparently all you needed to do was follow its magnetic pull to a point in the desert and push it into the sand. Within moments, water hidden within the earth would begin flowing from its mouth.”
- The Transcendent Mirror allows people to travel to the different worlds.
- A man uses Nalah’s blood to make a blood cloak. An ancient text said, “that the blood of one of these Thaumas, when joined with certain other materials, can make a substance so powerful, it becomes like an extension of the Thauma themselves. It draws power from the Thauma and imbues that power into whoever is wearing it—Fifth Clan or not.”
- When Nalah is in shackles, Soren puts a silver coin into her mouth. Nalah uses her magic to turn the coin into a key, which allows her to remove the shackles.
- Halan finds a hold-all bag, which looks normal but holds as many items as one can put into the bag.
- Nalah is told she must go to a shrine and “find you what the Seer has to tell you. Your destiny be the destiny of all of us, Starchild, and it must not be delayed. Read I this in the stars. . .”
- Nalah must use her magic to pass a series of tests. When she gets to the shrine, the walls begin to burn, and Nalah must ignore them to focus on opening a box to get a key.
- Halan is given a magic knife that “will render anyone it cuts unable to speak for at least an hour.” Halan’s traveling companion, Marcus, is given a staff that “strikes with twice the force you put into it and will bear almost any weight without bending.”
- Tam performs a ceremony. Halan sees him “standing at an altar, his eyes closed and his mouth moving constantly as he muttered incantations. Placed on the altar was a large crystal bowl filled with a liquid so dark it was almost black, and giving off an eerie ghost light that hurt Halan’s eyes to look at. . .” Unconscious prisoners surround the altar, and their wrists had been cut. Tam “dipped the other hand into the bowl and began to write in the air, symbols that seemed to burn on the backs of Halan’s eyelids when she blinked, written with the blood of the innocent Thauma.” Tam is attempting to draw power through using the Thauma’s blood. The ritual is described over two pages.
- When Tam performs a ritual, New Hadar begins to tear. The ritual is going to cause the end of New Hadar. Halan and Nalah are able to stop the ritual, which creates a permanent portal between the worlds.
- Halan enters a secret meeting. “Thank you, Halan thought, sending out a message to the spirit of Nalah’s father. It looks like your luck even works for me.”
- Halan meets a prophet, Cyrus, who has been dead for hundreds of years. Cyrus tells her, “I am not alive, Nalah. . . Not quite—not the way you would understand it. I exist here. I have existed here since before I was born, and I will exist here for a long time after you are dead. In my short time as a mortal being, I was a Fifth Clan Thauma named Cyrus, also called the Prophet, the Blind Seer. I was blind, then, although it might be more true to say my eyes were simply . . . elsewhere.” Cyrus tells Nalah, “Since you picked up my prophecy orb, I have not left your side.”
- Halan prays for a miracle.