The Glittering Court is a thought-provoking and intriguing novel, written by Richelle Mead.
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. When Adelaide, an Osfridian countess poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in the New World, she must keep her true identity hidden from everyone at the Glittering Court at all costs. She manages to keep her secret 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 scandalise the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, uncharted lands.
I had relatively high expectations for this book because of the love I have for Vampire Academy and Bloodlines. I kind of got put off from reading Soundless because no one really seemed to be enjoying it. And I should have listened to the reviews again, as I scroll down the endless one/two-star reviews on Goodreads and shake my head at my former self. Was I thinking this was going to be the new Vampire Academy? Could past-me really have been that foolish? Well obviously, seeing as I’m sitting here, wallowing in my sadness and doubtful thoughts that Richelle will never return to writing about the characters we all and love from Vampire Academy. Honestly, that’s what she’s good at. She’s like Cassandra Clare, in a way. She should just keep writing books in the world that she set Vampire Academy in because we all know she’d sell them and we’d all love them. I think someone just needs to sit down with her and say: ‘Richelle, all they want is vampires.’ And no, I wouldn’t get bored of seeing more of Rose and Dimitri and Sydney and Adrian. I love them, and nothing is ever going to change that.
Instead of crying over new books about vampires not being released, I should probably begin discussing The Glittering Court. When I picked up this book, I was honestly looking forward to trying something new. And for the first fifty pages, that initial excitement stayed with me. I liked getting to know a new protagonist that I’d never heard about before and leaning about the new world this novel was set in. I was really trying to give this book a chance. However, I felt like there was one major aspect of this novel that seemed a little… off. A girl who doesn’t want to marry a stranger runs away… to marry a different stranger? That just didn’t make sense to me. Perhaps if that aspect of the novel was built up a little bit more, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Instead, I found myself reading about dresses and table manners and some weird fantasy, and I just wanted it all to stop. Please. Just give me vampires.
But I would have been partially okay with a questionable plot and its slow pace if the characters dazzled as much as the dresses they wore. Unfortunately, they were as dull as a girl who complains about not being ‘the Emerald’ because green matches her skin tone. There was only really two characters who I didn’t want to slap 100% of the time, one of which being our protagonist. She had her annoying and frustrating moments, sure, but I liked her stubbornness and impulsiveness. She had a determined attitude and while I didn’t understand why she was so determined most of the time, I respected her certainty in knowing what she wanted, even if we didn’t. Another person I liked seeing, no matter how briefly, was Mira. While I didn’t get to know her all that well, she was probably the easiest person to tolerate. Apart from that, I felt like the characters weren’t fleshed out enough. I knew them by name, but besides that I felt like I knew nothing about most of them. And it didn’t help that they all were made to appear shallow and superficial, caring nothing about wearing the best dress and finding the richest husband. I’m just still cringing from the idea of this story. As a feminist, there were moments in this novel where I had to stop and breathe and remind myself that it’s a period novel and is trying to get this sort of a reaction from me. I suppose that meant I wasn’t really angry at the book, more that I was angry at the way society used to run – and still even runs today.
Another thing I felt like this book needed more of was world-building. To be honest, it felt like Richelle just originally set it on Earth as we know it, but then realised that she’d sell more copies if it was placed in a ‘fantasy world’. Honestly, this book was as much fantasy as The Hunger Games is a contemporary. It felt like every place in the novel was just given a different name for the sake of attempting to make this book more allusive and thus more intriguing. Or perhaps Richelle didn’t want to give these places names of places that we all know, so that we could interpret it to apply to different aspects of our world and the society we live in. Perhaps this novel isn’t just about dresses and falling in love with a person different from the man you’re supposed to marry. Perhaps it instead serves as a clear and scathing critique on imperialism, and below that, a far more subtle and murky mediation on the abhorrent nature of humanity can be glimpsed. PerhapsThe Glittering Court serves as the catalyst for an existential crisis in readers, who are left with no clear sense of who, or what, to place their faith in, leaving us with nothing more than a choice of nightmares. Perhaps this novel explores the limits of human experience as well as the nightmarish realities of imperialism. Or perhaps it does none of that. Whether I should take the philosophical approach and admire The Glittering Court for the enlightenment it creates in readers about the true nature of imperialism or whether I should take the YA book reviewer approach and spit out a review that highlights my dissatisfaction in this novel, I’m not sure. All I can do is write down my pure, unadulterated thoughts and hope that you are able to discern meaning.
So overall, I guess all that you really want to know is if I liked this book or not. I suppose that’s hard to say. While its enjoyable moments were rare and littered unevenly throughout and the characters were a little lacklustre, this novel wasn’t terrible. But perhaps what allowed me to give it the following rating was the way I interpreted it to be more than a novel, and instead, a harsh critique on the nature of humanity. Whether Richelle meant for us to read her YA fiction novel like that or not, I’m not sure. All I know is that Heart of Darkness is on my mind and I have my Literature internal exam in three days time, meaning I should probably get back to that. Overall, I’d give The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead a score of 7 out of 10. Will I be reading the next instalment? No, probably not. But let’s discuss this book! Have you read this one yet? Are you a fan of other books by Richelle Mead? Do you have a Literature exam coming up? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Penguin Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!