Book Review: The Glittering Court, by Richelle Mead

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cv_the_glittering_courtThe Glittering Court is a Cinderella story in reverse. It is the story of Lady Witmore, a countess whose family fortune has depleted. Faced with an arranged marriage, to a bit of a “wet blanket”, and the prospect of a a future spent with a domineering mother-in-law, the Countess takes matters into her own hands. Assuming the identity of her ex-serving lady, she becomes Adelaide Bailey, and runs away to join the Glittering Court – a school set up to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies, fit to send into the “New World” as potential wives.

With her high-class upbringing, one might suspect Adelaide would excel at her studies – and indeed she could – but there is a fine line to tread if she wishes to keep her identity a secret. Also, despite her knowledge in the higher classes, her basic training is, well, something of an embarrassment. She cannot sew, but knows the correct silverware to use. So, while the other girls receive a crash-course in behaving noble, Adelaide hones her skills of deceit, and picks up a few more along the way. She makes friends too: Fierce and determined Tamsin and beautiful and intelligent Mira, a Sirminican refugee. And, of course, there is rivalry, with Clara, the resident “queen bee”, who is determined not to be out-staged.

Her deceit becomes more complicated when we discover her true identity is known to one person, the intriguing Cedric Thorn. He has secrets of his own, as Adelaide discovers, secrets that could have him killed. The two set up a scheme to make the best of her deception, and free them both from the binds of the society they are soon to leave behind. Settling in Adoria brings more complexity, however, as Adelaide quickly catches the eyes of a promising suitor, just as she is falling in love with someone else… someone who could create scandal and force her to leave behind, entirely, her former comfortable life. Is she ready to forego a life of comfort and good food, in favour of love and hard work?

The Glittering Court is a complexly woven story, with deception, secrets, social politics, romance, blackmail, scandals, adventure… there is never a dull moment to be had. Adelaide is, despite her upper-class upbringing, far from being a rich snob and very, very determined. Her friends are equally personable, unfortunately, they fade somewhat into the background as the story’s journey takes new twists and turns. Her rivalry with Clara, likewise, dissipates into the greater scheme of things. Despite this, many of the earlier threads are tied up later in the book, with enough left hanging to leave the reader anticipating the follow-up.

This isn’t Vampire Academy (although the teen girl politics are similar in the earlier part), and it bears more semblance to a historic novel than fantasy (albeit historic set in a world reminiscent, but dissimilar to our own). It should appeal to fans of Kiera Cass’s Selection novels. It is richly written, compelling and engaging. The cast of characters is rich – although not especially diverse (Mira notwithstanding), which I guess fits the setting – it’s a very “white colonial” style plot. A highly enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

The Glittering Court
by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill
ISBN 9780670079360

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