The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
Book One of The Glittering Court series
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Copy provided by First to Read
Summary (from Goodreads):
A dazzling new fantasy series set in a mix of Elizabethan and frontier worlds that’s dripping with romance from Richelle Mead, #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy.
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. . . .
What I Liked:
This book was different! I don't think I've read anything quite like it before. We have a mixture of Elizabethan London (though the setting is a fantasy made-up one) and the American Frontier (1800s, gold panning, the New World, Manifest Destiny, etc.). Everything is purely fantasy, but totally based on these two types of settings, mixed into one. How cool! I really enjoyed the book. This is only my second Mead book (and I wasn't a fan of Soundless), and I'm happy to say that I actually enjoyed this one a lot!
Lady Whitmore, a countess, is about to enter an arranged marriage... with her cousin. Her family has no money, but she has a title, and so the match is a balanced one. But Adelaide sets the chance to escape by pretending to be her servant, when her servant is invited to join the Glittering Court (the servant doesn't want to go, but Adelaide does). There, Adelaide is taught how to be nobility (which she obviously excels at), and all the girls are to attract a husband and marry well. She makes friends, including her two roommates, and Cedric Thorn, son of Jasper Thorn, who runs the Glittering Court. Cedric finds out her secret... and she finds out some of his. Together, they begin to figure out how to help Cedric with his secret - but it could mean giving up hers.
There are so many parts to this book! I definitely cannot say that this book was boring. The book starts with Adelaide meeting her future husband, and then she hears about the Glittering Court and runs away. Then a lot of time is spent at the Glittering Court. And the girls are taken to the New World to find husbands (that's the whole point of the Glittering Court - to find rich husbands overseas, in the New World). There, everything gets hairy.
I like Adelaide! She's tough and bold and has guys. To leave a privileged life of class and riches and entitlement? It seemed like an easy choice given the circumstances, but the learning curve was steep. Nevertheless, Adelaide learns a lot, in terms of how to be a working woman, less than a noblewoman. Which is funny, because the Glittering Court is all about turning working women into noblewomen.
I also adore Adelaide's roommates, Tamsin and Mira! Tamsin is determined to be the #1 girl at the Glittering Court (aptly called the diamond). She is trying to do the best because she can't go back to her former life (we don't know her backstory, but it's coming in future books). She is doing everything she can to turn up the charm and secure a man. And whatever her reasons are, we can't blame her! Tamsin knows what's best for her. As ambitious as she is, she's also a good friend. She and Adelaide do not have the easiest friendship at first, but Tamsin redeems herself.
I like Mira more than I liked Tamsin, though I liked Tamsin and am really curious about her backstory. I'm really curious about Mira's too though. The way Mead writes this book, we don't know everything about Tamsin and Mira. They'll be the protagonists of each of the next books, so we'll find out things as the series goes on. Mira is of a different ethnic group, and men don't want to marry her or take her seriously. But Mira is so sweet and such a survivor. I like her a lot!
Oh Cedric. We meet him fairly quickly, when he comes to Adelaide's house to inform her servant that she has been accepted into the Glittering Court (and that is when Adelaide devises her plan to escape). Cedric is so sweet and protective, and keeps Adelaide's secrets without even knowing her. I love how devoted he becomes to her, and how far he'd go for her. I also really like that he is true to himself and does not fall to peer pressure (you'll have to see what I mean by that).
The romance is so slow-burn and wonderful! This book is long, and the author takes her time in crafting the relationship. Adelaide is at the Glittering Court's manor of nearly a year, and then in the New World for about a year too (or thereabout). So basically, she and Cedric get to know each other really well, during the time. During the first year, they're friends, but you can tell that she is attracted to him. But more importantly, she risks a lot to help him, and makes some tough choices, for him. What I will say - no one has to become a martyr for anyone. Cedric does not sacrifice himself for her, and vice versa, at any permanent point in the story (again, you'll have to read the book to see what I mean - and I promise this isn't a spoiler). I really enjoyed the last third of the book, especially in terms of the romance. Things got pretty heated! Also, no love triangle.
Did I already mention how much I like the setting? A mixture of an Elizabethan setting, and the Frontier. The gold mining and panning took me by surprise, in the second half of the book! It felt like the Wild West or something. I like this though, the blend of two very different times/worlds/settings! The author did a really good job with crafting the world.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with this book. The strong female relationships, the lovely slow-burn romance, the interesting plot, fascinating setting... and the best part? (Or one of them.) This book reads like a standalone. Literally the entire story is told in this book, so you can read this book and stop there! Adelaide and Cedric's story is done, at the end. I mean, they may make cameos in the two companion novels, but their story is pretty final. And I LOVE the ending!
What I Did Not Like:
This is more of a warning than a dislike -- not everything will make 100% sense. And that is because the sequels will make those things clearer - that's what I'm gathering. Book two and book three are in Tamsin and Mira's POV (though which character is getting which book, I do not know).
Would I Recommend It:
I liked this book a lot! It's completely historical-esque, but in a fantasy setting (because everything is made up), but there is no paranormal aspect to the book (yay). I like the steamy romance a lot (and no love triangle, woohoo), and the story in general was really cool. Plus, you can read it as a standalone! That's a major win right there.
4 stars. While I am very content with what I read here, I will definitely be looking forward to read Tamsin's story, and Mira's story! Usually I'm kind of wary of companion sequels in YA, but I love how Mead has the series set up. Cedric and Adelaide's ending was perfect!
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