“Locked in a glittering cage that so many admired, little knowing it was suffocating me.”

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead is getting slammed on Goodreads and round about. I liked it, perhaps because I listened to it on a long drive (seven hours x 2), have never read Richelle Mead before and had no expectations whatsoever. (And I haven’t read similarly themed The Selection by Kiera Cass.) I couldn’t even remember the blurb when I started, but had a vague recollection of negativity I read somewhere.

Narrator Kristen Sieh is very good and The Glittering Court passed the time on my long journey, not quite as long as Adelaide’s, nor as treacherous. Predictable, sensationalist and the girl gets her man, but also action packed and funny. The comment on gender expectations and religious intolerance makes it somewhat more than romantic fluff.

“The edge here was in being male.”

The Glittering Court is promoted as fantasy, but it’s not really. More alternative history – historical fiction with a twist. All the place names, nationalities and religions are changed. Adelaide is a countess/ baroness (I can’t remember) in Osfrid (England). Adoria is the New World (North America). I quite liked guessing what corresponds in her world to ours. Easy to work out, but it passed the time on my drive.

Adelaide doesn’t like the rich suitor her grandmother picks out for her and looks for a way out. She finds it in the Glittering Court, a finishing school that provides mail-order brides to the male dominated New World of Adoria. Adelaide impersonates her maid Ada and takes her place.

It’s strange that Adelaide is happy to jump from one arranged marriage into another. Perhaps she has a premonition that Cedric will get her out of it, I know I did. (That’s not a spoiler, it’s blatantly obvious from the moment they meet. Although there are numerous times when I wondered how Adelaide could extricate herself from yet another inextricable predicament.)

Adelaide joins a bunch of lower class girls to learn what she’s lived her whole life. She has to hide her talents to avert detection, but she also doesn’t know basic skills like sewing and cooking. Her botched attempts at acting unlady-like make for some comedic turns. I liked this part of the story the best.

Making friends with Tamsin and Mira, the three finish training and board ship for their new lives. Set to sell themselves to the highest bidder. This aspect made me feel supremely icky. I kept thinking they would somehow conquer the Glittering Court’s mercenary machinations, but Richelle Mead isn’t that deep.

“Forgive me if this is offensive, do you ever feel like commodities for sale in some shop window?”

There are gaping holes in Tamsin’s and Mira’s stories. I didn’t realise until after reading it’s because the other books in the series tell their stories. I don’t feel I need continue because I already worked out what Mira was up to on her mysterious night time adventures. She’s the token POC and there’s even a token LGBTQI. Their one dimensionality = diversity check. Mira’s book will probably expand on her Sirminican heritage, so perhaps I’m too harsh.

“Sometimes, at the right time of day, they can catch a glimpse of each other across the sky. Nothing more.”

I liked the religious persecution aspect of the story. I don’t much like religion in books, but I guess pretend religions are alright. I loved the nature worship of the Alanzans. And Uros is suitably intolerant and corrupt for the bad guys.

“I had a particular interest in girls who were being sold off to men they hardly knew.” – Aiana the Balanquan

I didn’t like the glossing over of the invasion of Adoria. The area settled as West Haven had no inhabitants (yeah right). The Balanquans to the north defended their territory and got to stay (noble savage trope). The Icori who I thought were indigenous to the area were actually from (our) Scotland and fled persecution from invading Osfrid. Thus the Icori were the first invaders. Who knows what they did to the actual indigenous inhabitants. Now they’re subjugated by Osfridian settlers. There’s some comment on this (eg. the bigoted views of Warren and his cronies, you know this makes them bad guys). Adelaide dissents from intolerant views and makes friends with Aiana the token Balanquan.

Seems there’s a lot to question, but if you don’t think too much, The Glittering Court has romance and adventure all wrapped up. Take the Listening Library production on any long journey, especially if you go to gold prospecting country like me. Coincidence much!?

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

“I like men, I just don’t like any of the men I’ve met here.”