There are, to my mind, two basic kinds of historical fiction: those that endeavor to be historically accurate and those that really don't, merely using the lavish historical backdrop to entertain. Personally, I like both kinds. The only time the latter's not good is when it has pretensions to being history as well as historical fiction, and teaches readers a bunch of incorrect information. Heart of Glass falls into the latter camp, and, from what I can tell, the political maneuverings of the novel have no bearing on reality. However, it's also a fun, engaging story and written to uphold the power of women, so I really don't mind that I'm not learning Venetian history from its pages.
Sasha Gould built this series around an awesome historically inaccurate idea she had:Venice run behind the scenes by a secret society of women. While there may not be a historical basis for this, I am all kinds of behind this kind of alternative history endeavor. All throughout history, there have been women behind the scenes affecting the course of history through their husbands, but, here, Gould is bringing them together and making them a more independent force.
These women endeavor to keep rocky Venetian politics more stable and less affected by the changes in power. They aim to be more fair and to help Venice, rather than an individual's political aims. I love that the Segreta are shown as powerful in many ways: physically skilled with weaponry, clever, and influential. Laura herself is a perfect example of this, determined, caring and strong. I like that's actually intelligent and puts thought into her actions, not always reacting solely with emotion.
What Left Me Wanting More:
However, much as I love this uplifting of women, I did think that Laura was a bit too powerful. She's engaged to the Doge's son, so she is very high in society, but I still doubt that the male Councillors would ask her opinion on things. Certainly they would not with a bunch of other men in the room. The amount that even men respect her at her tender age seems rather out of place.
The only other drawback for me was the villains. Much of the mystery is very obvious and the villains have no real motivations other than grasping for power or unclear revenge. I prefer there to be a bit more depth to a villain. They ought to be somewhat understandable at least, if not relatable. Heart of Glass could have been more nuanced and had a better impact were that the case.
The Final Verdict:
Heart of Glass is engaging from beginning to end, and I never found myself bored or my attention wandering. It's a very quick read, and those who enjoyed Cross My Heart will certainly want to read this one as well. The ending left room for another book, and I suspect I'll be reading that one too!