by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill
on April 5, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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…
My take: In my opinion, a reader picking this up should erase his or her mind of all preconceptions of what a Richelle Mead story will be. The Glittering Court isn't really anything like the Vampire Academy books. It's not paranormal romance, more like an alt-historical romance that takes place in an England-like country called Osfrid and a colonial America-ish place called Adoria. (Okay, there is an academy of sorts, but it's nowhere near as cool as St. Vladimir's Academy.)
I'd say that The Glittering Court felt like The Prince and the Pauper crossed with The Selection. Elizabeth Witmore, Countess of Rothford, is desperate to get out of her arranged marriage and spies her opportunity when one of her servants is offered a place in a finishing school called the Glittering Court that trains lowborn women to prepare for life as the wife of one of the men the New World of Adoria. (The women are polished up and then auctioned off to the highest bidder.) You can see where this is going, right? Elizabeth takes Adelaide's place and enters the so-called "Glittering Court," ready to be trained and auctioned off. Of course, it would seem that she's only postponing the inevitable of another arranged marriage, but this doesn't really seem to dawn on Elizabeth/Adelaide, who's downright smug about the way she outwitted that whole forced marriage thing by joining a quasi-brothel.
I wanted to like E/A more than I did. Competent heroines should be a positive thing, but E/A was effortlessly perfect in a way that grated on me a little. (She reminded me a bit of Sydney Sage, but without the quirks that make Syd relatable.)
My favorite part of the book was the alt-history aspect- I love alt-hisroty and thought the idea was cleverly executed. I could have done with less Selection-y stuff, like talk of gowns and ranking the girls into tiers named after jewels. I also thought that the secret that Cedric (the love interest) was keeping was an interesting one. No, it's not really scandalous from a 2016 perspective, but I thought it worked well in the story.
No, this isn't VA and Adelaide isn't Sydney enough for me and Cedric is certainly no Adrian. But if I try to take this book on its own merits, it definitely had enough there to hold my interest. The books to follow will reportedly be companion books featuring different girls from the Glittering Court.