The Olive Conspiracy – Shira Glassman

Book four in the Mangoverse series (I reviewed book two, Climbing the Date Palm, here) represents a marked improvement in Glassman’s writing skills. I didn’t see the ending twist coming and had my feelings skillfully manipulated. This review will not contain spoilers.

Queen Shulamit’s ex-crush Carolina has recently inherited the throne of her own country, and almost immediately, plagues fall upon Shulamit’s country’s agriculture. Is Carolina behind what is clearly intentional sabotage?
To get the bad stuff out of the way: the economic structure of Carolina’s country, a huge factor in the plot, was not terribly clear beyond “stratified society where workers can be physically abused”. I feel like this structure could have been more detailed or more subtly shown.

Also, I noticed that Glassman’s descriptions can be vague, eg telling you that customers in a restaurant chatted noisily instead of showing you eg an absorbing card game and a lovers’ quarrel among patrons. Specificity of detail is what I missed.

The good, however, far outweighed the bad.

Where the villain in Date Palm was a greedy and repressive ruler, the antagonist in this book had much more complicated motivations. In fact, they were my favorite character, even though their positive actions are balanced out by the evil they do, so Shulamit is clearly in the right.

Glassman also resists the temptation to exalt Shulamit’s current happy partnership by denigrating her previous crush–there are good reasons she ended up with her wife instead of Carolina, but her feelings as a teen are also granted respect.

The common thread of these is the increased complexity of characterization and the recognition of competing goods, always a great narrative technique.

Two emotionally powerful scenes stuck out: the burning of an olive grove to slow the blight, watched by the unhappy farmers, and Shulamit’s and Carolina’s big scene together at the end.

I look forward to what Glassman does next.

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