The Glass Town Game feels a little like Fairyland-lite. Based on the childhood games and stories of the Brontes, including Branwell, Valente delivers another kind of portal fantasy in which the Brontes find themselves in the middle of their own imagined world. The four are generally fun to follow, though Branwell is rather annoying (probably quite in line with the real Branwell). It’s all very whimsical and charming, but the Fairyland books are better at that, so it didn’t quite work for me; I’ve seen Valente do it better.
That aside, it’s an absorbing read, with so much cleverness, including sly references to the Brontes adult work and little pieces from their biographies, etc. It ticks along at a fine pace, and each of the siblings gets the eye of the narrator on them in turn, dissecting their faults and flaws and cheering for their strengths and cleverness. You can’t quite root for Branwell (though you can understand him), but Charlotte in particular makes an excellent heroine. The first half is a little slower, and might take some getting into, but after the halfway point it picks up pace a lot.
If I were recommending somewhere to start with Valente’s work, it wouldn’t be this, but it’s definitely entertaining and beautifully written. It’s more in line with the Fairyland books in terms of style than her adult novels; it doesn’t come across as more poetry than prose, if that’s something which bothers you about her books like Deathless and Palimpsest.