As a Moon severed from his Sun, Kai is living half a life. But rather than dwell in sorrow, he has devoted himself to the novitiate program. Here, along with the others who have lost their predetermined mates, he can distance himself from loneliness and focus on the important business of creating planets. He is particularly enchanted with his latest protoplanet, named in honor of his deceased Sun. For Kai, the little sphere of coalescing life protected under a bell jar is the closest he will ever come to achieving the perfection he might have shared with his Sun. When Kai learns his Sun is actually alive on a distant planet, he is determined to grasp his only chance at true happiness.
Ollie Gyin has always known he was a bit different. Aside from the odd growth on the back of his neck, his mother moved to Harrea from the secretive Second Continent when he was just a child, making them strangers in a strange land. He doesn’t remember where he came from, but often wonders who and what he might have left behind. Though he doesn’t truly belong in Harrea, he has surrounded himself with good friends and enjoys his work as an architect.
When Ollie and Kai finally meet, though the attraction between them is instantaneous, the realities of their situation are not so quickly resolved. The sudden realization that he is fated to love a man be barely knows leaves Ollie scrambling for answers. Kai wants the romance he has been promised, but understands he will have to take his time with Ollie and learn to accept that love and trust cannot be demanded, but must earned.
As the two men learn more about one another and explore the nature of their bond, they will have to decide if free will is stronger than fate and if following their hearts means sacrificing their sense of self.
Under Glass was a thoroughly enjoyable romance set amongst the stars. The characters are compelling and the extensive world building is thoroughly imagined and generally well executed. Kai is an introvert, the product of years of relative self-imposed isolation following the death of his Sun, but while others pity his loss, he is far from pitiable. He is intelligent and clever, if naive, and his character is made all the more interesting since the creation of life has become his devotion. His suffering seems real, without being overly dramatic, and his desperation to reach Ollie is palpable to the reader. Ollie is a little less well defined. We know a little about his childhood and eventual separation from Kai, but his life on Harrea is never fully developed. Still the author did a good job of expressing Ollie’s very real concerns on the matter of predestined love and his reluctance to abandon free will, even for something so wonderful as a perfect mate.
The nature of Kai’s work in the planetarium and his planet’s ongoing relationships with the other worlds they have created is extremely fascinating. I would have liked to know more about how Kai’s people evolved to have such vast scientific knowledge, but the overall concept is still intriguing and made believable in the context of the narrative.
My biggest annoyance of the book centered on Rica, Ollie’s boyfriend of one month. Their relationship, if it can even be called that, provides an unnecessary conflict that serves to slow down the middle of the book rather than further it. Rica acts merely as a placeholder and a mild threat to Ollie and Kai’s relationship. He is of no real importance to the plot and could have been removed with having been missed. While Cohen does well building a unique collection of original flora, fauna, and even food for her world, the narrative is occasionally jarred by the use of rather ordinary and all too “Earthly” concepts, such as chiropractors, t-shirts, and omelets. While these things certainly could exist on other planets, they just don’t seem to fit smoothly alongside the original creations we’re offered. Generally the plot moves quickly and there aren’t many drag points, but several situations do jump out as slightly absurd, though they do not dramatically detract from the overall storyline. They just leave the reader wishing for a bit more explanation and realistic reasoning.
Under Glass contains no great action sequences and few dramatic moments. Instead, it is the comfortable evolution of a relationship between two uniquely bound individuals. Set amongst the backdrop of planet creation and the classic struggle between fate and free will, Under Glass gives the readers a chance to exercise their imaginations while enjoying a memorable romance.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.