Book Review – The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Book Review – The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
Book Review – The Glittering Court by Richelle MeadThe Glittering Court Series: The Glittering Court #1
Publication date: April 12, 2016
416 pages
Format: ARC

Big and sweeping, spanning 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 capable of arranging 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 later, 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….

Series Overview: Each book in the trilogy is self-standing and told from the point of view of one of three girls as they travel to and experience life in the New World, becoming enmeshed in her own adventures and romantic intrigues while also playing a role in her friends’ stories—often in ways that aren’t obvious until the series is complete.

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Book Review:

The Glittering Court is the first book in Richelle Mead’s new fantasy/historical-like series that I would describe as an Elizabethan “The Bachelor with ladies’ choice” meets colonial America meets the Gold Rush. That’s a lot to take in, I know. As a loyal fan of Richelle Mead, I was really excited to see what was next for her in young adult after wrapping off the spin-off series of the Vampire Academy world. Overall, I did like The Glittering Court, but the plot lulled far too much in the latter half causing the book to drag.

In a nutshell, the book centers around Adelaide Bailey, a Countess in disguise. She assumed her lady maid’s identity and name after being forced into an arranged a marriage to a dull man—one with whom she can’t imagine spending the rest of her life. You might ask why she chose her lady maid. Well, the real Adelaide had gained admission into a new school—and rather profitable business—run by the Thorn family. This new school called The Glittering Court teaches young ladies—mostly lower class girls—how to be proper ladies of society.  After a year of classes and final exams, the girls are ranked and shipped off to Astoria, a newly settled country. The New World is filled with potential suitors for the ladies to choose from once they arrive. This escape gives Adelaide what she didn’t have before: freedom. But complications arise when she starts to fall for the son of the school’s owner, Cedric.

Interestingly enough, the schooling part of the book was rather small, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I was expecting that to be the main focus. Largely, the focus is on the girls being presented to Astorian suitors. The ladies go to balls and visit the men one-on-one before making their choice. Yes, some of the guys lose. 🙂 Admittedly, the whole selling girls as a commodity was a little uncomfortable for me, but I think that was part of the message—it’s icky, the objectification of women.

I call it an Elizabethan The Bachelor because in a sense, the girls are presenting the best versions of themselves to the guys. The girls get to choose which man gets her hand in marriage, which is different than what is normally done in their society. Women don’t marry for love, they marry for station and comfort. Love usually comes later.

Where Mead shines in this book is in the romance between Cedric and Adelaide. Their romance is forbidden, full of fleeting moments and stolen glances. It’s a slow burn all the way, full of restraint and hesitancy on both their parts. By being together, they are breaking all the Glittering Court’s rules, putting the whole business in jeopardy. I loved seeing them fight their feelings.

Cedric is such an awesome guy! He’s smart, sweet, and would do ANYTHING to be with the woman he loves. And when I say anything, I mean anything. You’ll see.

The last half of the book moved very slowly for me, despite a lot going on plot-wise. I felt like the book lost its focus. As I got to peak of the story, I didn’t feel this growing sense of tension and unease. Rather, I felt disinterested and apathetic towards what went on. Particularly, I didn’t find the villain’s storyline or the conflict to be compelling. I wasn’t at all riveted by the book’s conclusion. What kept me turning the pages, in the end, were the moments between Cedric and Adelaide.

Mead is a masterful storyteller. All of her books, this one included, have a deeper message with themes woven throughout. The Glittering Court is all about women empowerment, the freedom to choose, and the freedom to be who you want to be without rules or restraint.

This series is a unlike Read’s other series where each book is a continuation. Here, the reader is introduced to Adelaide, Tasmin, and Mira, three girls who become close friends during their studies. The remainder of the books in the series will feature another girl’s point-of-view covering the same time frame that’s covered in The Glittering Court. I did wonder how that was going to work out and whether it would lend to a lot of repetition, but Mead does creates mystery and deliberate holes in the other girls’ stories setting up the next books. I’m not sure if I will continue on with the series, as I didn’t find the other girls’ characters to be all that compelling.

* I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

The Glittering Court-Mead

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