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The Glittering Court
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Glittering Court is best-selling author Richelle Mead's first in a proposed fantasy trilogy set in an alternate fantasy universe that resembles colonial America's relationship with England. The story tackles mature themes such as marriage, sexism, religious freedom, and colonialism but also features the forbidden romance and intrigue that one would expect from the popular YA novelist. The "bride for hire" theme is already a mature idea, but the romance is very subtle at the beginning. Toward the end, however, the romance turns into a passionate marriage and an ongoing sexual relationship. The violence includes references to religion-based murders, an assassination attempt, a near rape that's defended with a knife, and other violent encounters.
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What's the story?
Unlike Richelle Mead's popular vampire series, THE GLITTERING COURT is not a paranormal fantasy but a quasi-historical fantasy set in a world that is at once familiar and completely fictional. Lady Elizabeth Witmore is a countess living in tony Osfrid (think London) with a great title and name but no fortune. Faced with a financially desirous but emotionally disastrous betrothal, Elizabeth decides to take drastic steps. She decides to steal the identity of her maid Adelaide and take her place in the Glittering Court -- a business venture that takes beautiful working class girls and transforms them into true ladies to be married off with the newly rich colonists of Adoria, across the sea in the New World. The one hiccup is that Cedric, the handsome recruiter who initially signed up Adelaide, knows the truth. Since Elizabeth-now-Adelaide is already nobility, she has to pretend she's less refined than she really is to pass as a former lady's maid. In the Glittering Court, Adelaide hopes for a profitable match with someone who doesn't disgust her, but as she and Cedric, who has his own secrets, get to know one another, she realizes she wants more than comfort and status out of life.
Is it any good?
This alternative universe historical fantasy is fun for romance fans. The Glittering Court is a mix of The Selection and Jane Austen with period fashion, forbidden romance, and a storyline about brides for hire. Mead fans might be confused at first, because there are no hunky vampires or fairies in sight, but this story, while unevenly paced, still includes her signature features, such as an opposites-attract/forbidden romance, female friendships that support and encourage the protagonist, and a whole lot of conflict in the way of the happily ever after. Fashionistas or those who simply love intricate details about fabrics, hemlines, and corsets will be especially thrilled with the amount of time Mead spends describing the various elaborate dresses.
Adelaide isn't terribly self-aware and makes some cringe-inducing decisions, such as thinking that leaving one loveless marriage betrothal for an organization that basically sells brides to the highest bidder will help her situation. Of course, without that impulsive situation the readers would never get to experience the frontier world of Adoria, where there are all sorts of fortunes to be made, ethnic and religious differences to encounter, and a looser set of rules to abide. The pacing is uneven, and Adelaide, while likable enough, is less interesting than her best friends in the Glittering Court, Tamsin and Mira, who's a less desirable ethnicity (and complexion) than the rest of the girls. Each of them gets her own companion novel, and these characters show a great deal of potential after Adelaide's story is resolved.
Talk to your kids about ...
What do you think of alternate-universe fantasies that resemble but twist the world we live in or historical eras? What makes these books interesting?
How does The Glittering Court deal with romance? What is the message about marriage and love?
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