Goodreads: The Glittering Court
Series: The Glittering Court #1
Published: April 5, 2016
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…
After seeing a number of readers gush about their love for Richelle Mead, I decided to give The Glittering Court a chance–even in spite of the generally mediocre reviews the book has received from many other bloggers and the fact that book summary made me doubt from the start that this would be quite the novel for me. After powering through it and pondering several times whether I should simply DNF it, I have to say my initial skepticism was warranted. With simplistic prose, an irritating protagonist, and a plot that makes little sense, The Glittering Court will struggle to read many readers’ attention.
The book is told in first person past tense from the POV of protagonist Elizabeth/Adelaide. The problem is that Mead doesn’t go to a lot of trouble to make it a believable first person voice. Adelaide comments on all sorts of details and notices all sorts of things that would be better told from an omniscient third person POV. Add to this the fact that Adelaide does a lot of telling rather than showing (usually about how talented she is at…well, everything), and the writing style leaves something to be desired.
I did find Adelaide annoying even beyond her tendency to self-praise, though I acknowledge that Mead is probably intentionally characterizing her as full of herself–to some degree. Adelaide grew up in a very privileged position as a countess in the Old World, so Mead does put some effort into realistically making her a pesron who isn’t really aware of her privilege until it’s taken from her, and then naturally reacts badly to the fact the world suddenly isn’t revolving around her. So I get it. Making Adelaide too “likeable” may have makde her unbelieable. However, I do think that Mead actually does expect readers to like her, and to believe that’ she’s all the things she keeps saying she is: witty, charming, endearing, beautiful, and talented at 100% of social arts. And I didn’t actually find her witty or charming at all, just bland and obsessed with herself, with the occasional foray into selflessness for her lover (not necessarily for anyone else).
The other characters were equally bland to me, so although the next two books are apparently supposed to be companion novels that follow Adelaide’s two BFFs, I’m not really interested in them. It didn’t help that the best way Mead could think of to build suspense for these follow-ups was to have one of the characters tell the secrets she had been hiding to Adelaide–but still keep that information hidden from the reader: “‘Tamsin…You can tell me anything. Go ahead and ask whatever you need to.’ So she did.” Seriously, that’s the big reveal readers get of Tamsin’s secrets, “So she [told me].” The other girl flat out refuses to say anything at all, so we all have to tune into book 3.
The rest of the is similarly bizarre. I don’t have a problem with a large chunk of the book being devoted to the aimlessness of social gatherings and courting, because that’s what this book is selling: pretty girls and pretty gowns in the vein of The Selection. That’s what people are reading for. However, the book in general is episodic. Though this is probably going to be an obscure reference, it reminds me a lot of Vandover and the Brute by Frank Norris, in that a lot of stuff happens, but it’s often so unrelated and so irrelevant to any overarching plot that it’s actually hard to remember that half of it happened at all. Then things go wild at the end. The pacing gets out of control and a bunch of random characters converge. It’s certainly exciting, but I’m not sure about well-executed.
I feel kind of terrible, but I can’t think of anything I really enjoyed about this book. There were parts I disliked deeply and parts I was simply indifferent to, but nothing stands out as a really strong positive trait. This first foray into the books of Richelle Mead is likely to be my last.