Unlike Gripe's contemporary Hugo and Josephine books, The Glassblower's Children is a fairy tale, with remote storybook settings, mythic themes and archetypal rather than realistic characters.
The first chapters, drenched in Germanic folklore, are dominated by an almost tangible sense of foreboding which peaks at the country fair when Albert the glassmaker confronts the clairvoyant Flutter Mildweather, who weaves uncanny tapestries on Gallows Hill where she lives with a one-eyed raven. Then, in keeping with Flutter's prophecy, the glassmaker's beautiful children are kidnapped and carried across the river of forgotten memories into an altogether more elegant (and perhaps more French than Teutonic) but just as menacing fairytale world, linked with Albert's only by Gripe's dazzling but artificial glass imagery. Here the rich young Lord of All Wishes Town and his unhappy Lady hire a governess for the children, and Nanny's consuming evil presence and grotesque proportions introduce a third note, that of surreal extravagance. Unfortunately the shifts in scene and focus tend to dissipate the tension and instead of mounting revelation and convergence the climactic Flutter-Nanny confrontation (they turn out to be twin sisters) simply makes the previously mysterious Flutter a more and more conventional figure.
Despite the seams and weak spots, however, Gripe polishes each separate scene to fine perfection and makes each development more chilling than the last. (Fiction. 8-12)