Publishing Info: April 5, 2016 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: April 29, 2016
Related Posts: Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2), Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3), Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4), Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5), Bloodlines (Bloodlines #1), The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2), The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3), Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6), Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X #1)
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 fell in love with VAMPIRE ACADEMY and the whole series when I first started reading YA a few years ago and Richelle Mead’s books helped introduce me to a whole world of exciting adventures! I hadn’t read a new book from her in a while (still haven’t finished Bloodlines and it’s been a while since the last Age of X book) so I was really excited to see the audio for THE GLITTERING COURT pop up in my inbox! I really didn’t quite have an idea about what the book was about but I was excited to read a new Richelle Mead book!
Sadly, what I found was ultimately disappointing. The beginning had actually started off well! I had heard that THE GLITTERING COURT was fantasy but not a magical fantasy. Essentially, the setting is a fantasy world (as in, totally fabricated and not at all a part of the real world) but there are no magical elements. I’m totally okay with that (I loved The Winner’s Trilogy) and I don’t need magic to bring a world to life but this book REALLY fell flat. Wait, let me rewind.
The beginning of the book was entertaining. I love Richelle Mead’s humor and banter that I’ve enjoyed in other series like Vampire Academy, Bloodlines, and The Age of X. The characters were well-developed in the sense that their personalities easily came to life and made each one stand out. I wasn’t totally hooked right off the bat but I was easily following along and happy to be along for the ride (especially with a fun narrator) so the first half was a breeze to fly through.
THE GLITTERING COURT is essentially about a girl of noble status who runs away to The Glittering Court to find a new life for herself where she can be free — and this is really where the whole book lost me. Elizabeth (going by Adelaide — which was also confusing at times because I actually forgot what her real name was) wants to escape an arranged marriage so she runs away. Okay, I’m on board with that… But why to The Glittering Court where the whole concept is to find ANOTHER ARRANGED MARRIAGE? Sure, the girls get to “choose” who they marry but the choice is among the suitors who make the best offers. So not only is each girl contracted to choose a marriage partner within a specific time frame but the men are BUYING the women. How is this freedom…? This is only slightly different than Elizabeth’s original situation and it’s actually worse, in my opinion, because the women are being BOUGHT. How about a big fat no. That really screams freedom, right?
Anyway… I was letting that idea just lie there on the surface and trying not to look directly at it as I read. I was still entertained by the goings-on and it was enough that I still wanted to keep reading. But the more I read, the more I felt like everything was just a surface concept and nothing quite went too deep. I feel like Richelle Mead is known for several plot twists and surprising moments but THE GLITTERING COURT just didn’t have that for me until maybe the very end when some big things are revealed but for me, it was just too little too late. Intrigue wasn’t spread well enough throughout the book and the entire first half was just fancy parties, finishing school, frenemies, and manners. All well and good but not really anything to keep me hooked and wanting to continue this overall story.
Things really started to heat up when a little blackmail got involved (I mean, you knew it was coming but I was surprised at HOW) but then like every conflict thus far in the book, it quickly finds a (short-term) solution and the book moves on to something else. I think too many things happened and then got immediately resolved. Some points did end up coming back later in the book but it didn’t really feel like an over-arcing plot throughout the book and we sort of stepped from one idea to the next. I would have rather had one main conflict that extended throughout the whole book instead of conflict A, conflict B, conflict C, and so forth. They didn’t really seem to connect to each other even though the characters were connected and frankly, I really didn’t like a lot of the resolutions. Many times a character has to bend the rules or straight up break them in order to defeat a villain or make a better life for themselves but those usually dabble in gray areas that make the reader okay with it and sympathize with the character instead of dwelling on the wrongness of a situation. There were a few main points in THE GLITTERING COURT where a character’s actions just felt wholly dishonest or intentionally (and illegally) deceptive and it just felt like that crossed a bit more into the “wrongness” that is not an acceptable amount for me.
I was really lost once the book hit the 70% mark or so and things took an even more alt-history turn. THE GLITTERING COURT has a sort of a mix of Colonial America feels moving into the Industrial Era. I didn’t really consider it to be an American feel for most of the book because it was just kind of its own thing but really the trip to the “new world” essentially was across the sea and then new residents ended up mining gold claims. I was really thrown by this gold rush development because I wasn’t really thinking of this world in terms of being based off of American history, more or less, but that really struck me and the feel just felt totally off. Not to mention this part of the adventure felt totally separate and I just felt like it could have kicked off book two instead of being a part of book one. I would have rather had all of these places feel more unique instead of adapting American time periods to dictate its feel.
The plot during this setting change totally took a turn as well. The drama at the end wasn’t a surprise and yet it seemed out of place. It just felt sudden and I didn’t feel like it really transitioned well. It was like characters were hiding their secrets TOO well and it seemed off-base for what we had been told throughout the book. I suppose it could have been fine but the secrets that came out seemed so different from what I had known of the characters so far and with a few reveals all at once, it came off as forced instead of a natural reveal.
The characters didn’t feel deep to me either. Elizabeth/Adelaide was fierce and strong but then there were times when her objections to less-than-ideal conditions and hard work were incredibly irritating. That was the life that she chose and she knew it wasn’t going to be easy so I got bothered when she’d get all snobby again. (Then again at that point, I was already annoyed with the book.) I liked the tension between her and Cedric…… until that conflict was resolved and then all delightful tension was gone and I was bored. It wasn’t an easy solution, I suppose, and yet it felt too easily resolved. As much as the situation wasn’t an easy resolution, it was an immediate resolution and then the magic of their relationship fizzled.
I struggled to finish THE GLITTERING COURT, especially since the time that I started to grow annoyed happened around the release of the last book of a favorite series of mine, so it became hard to want to continue reading it. I honestly skimmed the end because I had grown so frustrated with the way the book turned. I have no interest in continuing the series and frankly, I don’t know where it would even go from here. I really don’t care to see what else this world holds and I’m so disappointed by the world-building and really overall concept here from Richelle Mead. This one really missed the mark for me. I’m so disappointed because the beginning of the book was entertaining but the ending just lacked so much that it really soured my whole opinion of it.
Source: Review copy obtained from Listening Library/Penguin Random House Audio
Narrator: Kristen Sieh
Performance: Entertaining! Didn’t totally love her but she kept me hooked when the story was failing.
Kristen Sieh did a really good job narrating THE GLITTERING COURT! I hadn’t listened to anything from her before but I may seek out more books that’s she’s narrated. She was quite spunky and really gave the characters a lot of depth (especially when I felt none from the actual story) and she was the reason I was interested when the book started losing me. She has a British accent and I thought she did the American accents quite well (which doesn’t always work for me). I liked her narration and thought she did a great job but I’m still not totally sure that she’s a favorite.
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Elizabeth/Adelaide // Character Obsessions: Hiding, freedom, love, knowledge.
As strong as Elizabeth/Adelaide was, she was more strong-willed and not actually a strong person. She ended up dealing with a lot and learned from it but she still found a lot of easy solutions instead of the right ones. I feel like she did physical hard work to go through this makeover concept but she didn’t really go through hardships and once she did, it was all for a boy. I wouldn’t say that lower status in order to pose as a common girl would qualify as overcoming a hardship and she does go through a lot in the end but still felt very shallow to me.
Cedric // Character Obsessions: Faith, money, Adelaide.
Cedric was weirdly enough the flattest character for me. We saw him through Elizabeth/Adelaide’s eyes so we saw a lot of her emotion but I didn’t really get a whole lot from Cedric. And then once romantic tension was resolved, he was even less interesting for me. I didn’t really feel that spark.
Kept Me Hooked On: Non-magical fantasy. I do appreciate another book that’s set in a fantasy world but without actual magic. I do love magic but it’s fun either way to see the world-building and new settings!
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. This seems like the weakest Richelle Mead book for me so far. No, it IS the weakest book for me so far. What happened to this plot? Half of the book was spent going through training in the Glittering Court. Why couldn’t we have spent that time getting into actual politics and intrigue and drama? The tone totally changed towards the end and by then, it just didn’t fit. I would have much rather spent time developing the twists — that did come — instead of wasting it on training and competition and courting. It seemed like such a waste to then have it be totally irrelevant.
This was just so frustrating for me. Judging on the first half of the book, I would have said read it just for fun and don’t dwell on what should be underneath the surface… But after finishing, I just don’t think it’s worth the time.
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