The Glittering Court
Author: Richelle Mead
Release: April 5th 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Romance, YA
#1 in the Glittering Court trilogy
Sequels: Midnight Jewel (#2), Untitled (#3)
Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.
Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.
When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.
But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…
I understand that Mead set out to combine a variety of haphazardly-thrown together elements with this novel, such as addressing the refugee crisis, including a portrayal of the Gold Rush and the frontier, while still combining all of this with blushing maidens and pretty dresses. And she kind of failed at putting all of this together in a satisfying way.
Individually, I think the aforementioned aspects might have worked in a novel written by her. But the way one thing followed the other simply felt off, like she was purposely trying to shove as many things down my throat as she could. That way, her pace also took a huge hit because I felt ripped out of the story's plot every time it changed direction again, and again, and oh, yeah, again. I thought I was reading a silly story, The Selection-esque, about girls dressing up and trying to land a nice husband. Suddenly, the main character is wearing men's clothes and mining for gold. Suddenly, there's a trial coming up and I was even reminded a little bit of To Kill a Mockingbird. It was, to say the least, a mess.
The characters didn't really do much to help save the novel in terms of enjoyment. Adelaide is such a bland proxy main character that never felt like an actual person to me, because she was just so... forced. By which I mean, Mead tries so hard to make her stand out and still be likable, with Adelaide being very outspoken, opinionated and not afraid to speak her mind, so that she comes across as endearingly stubborn and straightforward, but she just wasn't. I don't know where the mistake was made, but I never warmed up to Adelaide. One minor thing I'd also like to point out is how we never learn "Adelaide's" actual, true name until about 80% through. For some reason, that REALLY irked me, especially because she's also called Adelaide in the blurb, when that's not even her real freaking name. Maybe that is part of the reason why she never felt like an actual person. Because she didn't even seem to have her own name.
The other characters don't really make it better either. "Adelaide's" only two friends, both of which would have made much more interesting heroines than she did, are mysteriously absent for most of the book and never forthcoming about their own secrets, especially Mira. I really, really would have loved to learn more about Mira and all, but you know what? I have a feeling that the next companion novel in this trilogy will probably be about Mira, so there's at least that to look forward to. The male lead, Cedric, was boring as hell. He was nice, yes, which I appreciate, but he just didn't feel like an actual person either. There was no depth to him.
Which is why the romance was the ultimate death blow. It felt so contrived and like it was forced on me, because there is never an allusion to feelings between them until there are, completely out of nowhere. There's no real build-up, or slow-burn, they don't even have THAT much interaction with each other up until they're confessing their feelings. There's only the insta-love attraction based on how attractive they are to each other and that's literally it. And it was the absolutely dumbest thing ever. Seriously, it made me so fucking mad. So, so angry. Because "Adelaide" throws away everything, her life, her wealth, her identity, her only remaining family for God's sake, all to find a new life in the New World. To marry well and all that. But she throws all of that away AS WELL only to be with her 1 tru luv. Get. A. Fucking grip, girl. Honestly. I cannot tell you how mad I am. I AM SOOO MAD OKAY? It was dumb. It was so stupid. I just.
“If I was being honest with myself, Cedric had been on my mind since the moment we met. I'd just worked to keep my feelings pushed off to the side of my mind. But now that I'd unlocked my heart and admitted to those feelings... Well, now there was no keeping him out of my head.”
Not to mention their dialogue and interactions are a nightmare, let me tell you. They go from this:
“I didn't dare look at him, but our proximity made our legs touch under the table. At first, I kept my leg tense, but then I let it relax against his. I felt him do the same. For the remainder of the meal, I had no idea what I ate or said. My entire world focused on that touch.”
which is quite obviously scandalous and just so full of passion! to this:
“I should probably get going,” I said lightly. “I have things to do.”
“I could give you a few suggestions.”
Ewwww. No. No, no, no! It was like a switch was flipped and they go straight from childish, immature remarks and behavior to yet more childish and immature sexual innuendos. It was exhausting.
And this ends with me here, being extremely mad at this book for the horrible romance it tried to sell me, and the really uninteresting plot it never managed to pull off. If the sequel truly is going to be about Mira and her story, I might want to read it, but if not, I'm not sure I will have any urge to read another book like this.