From the publisher:
A dazzling, romantic new fantasy series set in a mix of Elizabethan and frontier worlds 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 Courttells 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. . . .
Unwilling to marry an itchy cousin to save her family from mounting debt, the young Countess of Rothford decides to run away and join the Glittering Court. This ladies’ finishing school is designed to pass off common girls as ‘New Nobility’, in order to sell them as wives to men in the New World. Now, from a purely objective standpoint, the rationale behind Adelaide’s decision is perfectly sapient. Embracing one’s deep-seated sense of adventure by abdicating one arranged marriage to barrel into another, all the while flying the proverbial familial coop and abandoning exactly one (1) bereft grandma, is what we all would do in such a situation, I’m sure. And you haven’t even heard the best part! In her reckless abandon of cousin Lionel, Adelaide surrenders all pretenses of modern decorum and trades a tactfully (although questionably) arranged marriage for something much baser: glorified human trafficking.
Which brings me to my next point: the world inaugurated by Mead in this startling series debut spins on an axis of misogyny and prejudice. Not only is the society portrayed in The Glittering Court imbued with sexism and other such crimes against humanity, but its plot is built on these elements, and could not exist without them. Mead has spun a tale so deeply entrenched in the degradation of women that her protagonist would fail to have a story in its absence. Unfortunately, this is not a matter of dowries or gold diggers or even star-crossed love between castes; this is about an organized, lawful business whose primary mission is the sale of women.
Adelaide, naturally, is rescued from this harrowing enmity only by true love’s kiss. Oblivious to the inequity surrounding her, she chooses instead to invest the entirety of her energy and attention into the spray tan love for which YA is so notorious. And thank God for that, because what ever would she do without a big, strong man to save her? (Never mind a tall, dark, and handsome one!) By accepting the incredible misogyny widespread throughout her culture without so much as lifting a finger– or raising a voice, or shaping a thought– against it, it seems obvious to me that Adelaide condones it. It is my pressing belief that this is a you’re-either-for-us-or-against-us situation. And it seems that our darling Adelaide, dear readers, too preoccupied with the sweep of her hair and the hue of her gowns, is against us.
I’m not wholly sure of the terminology, but I’ve heard The Glittering Court addressed as a half-fantasy; part Victorian England, part Belle Époque France, and part colonial America, with none of the magic to see it all through. Mead showers her plot in various elements and values stemming from each of these eras with no apparent common thread to tie them together, and nothing of value to add to them. Needless to say, the world building fails. The geography is preliminary at best, the social hierarchy is grandly detailed and yet still ostensibly boring, and the theocracy borders perfunctory. If you’re going to blame a dystopia on a constitutional lack of laïcité, please feel free to give the religion in question some substance.
Additionally, Mead tempts us to read on by dangling promises of deep, dark secrets to come from each of her secondary characters like apples in front of a horse. For instance, no one knows what Tamsin has at stake, Mira is withholding the basis for her nightly jaunts, and Cedric is harboring a secret that may very well cost him his head. In the end, we never do discover the nature of Tamsin’s collateral; Mira’s enigma is easy enough to piece together, if seemingly extraneous; and Cedric’s big secret is honestly just trite. There’s no way around it– I couldn’t imagine a bigger anticlimax in that regard if tried.
I’m told that the reason we learn so little about Tamsin and Mira in this installment is that The Glittering Court is slated as a companion series; these ladies will feature as protagonists in their own novels. I couldn’t tell you for sure, though. I certainly don’t plan on reading them.
I will say this: The Glittering Court is a fast-paced read and a lovely romance. Although these features in no way compensate for its faults, they did provide me with much needed satisfaction and regalement.
Recommended for all those unwilling to rage against the machine. 1.4/5 stars.
I’ll keep you posted,
From the publisher:
In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.
When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.
Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.
I siphoned this hardcover out of the Bargain Books shelf of my local bookstore under the false impression that it constituted yet another classic YA novel, courtesy of Richelle Mead: witty, kickass, and unputdownable. Ultimately it delivered on each of those promises, save for the young adult factor. For this reason, I debated reviewing Gameboard of the Gods; my website is named What YA Reading, after all. Finally I determined that, as I am now a legal adult in the province of my residence, this adult book was worth mentioning. Furthermore, as I plan to remain a lawful adult for the near future, at least, this may not be the last “older” novel you see on this blog. You’ve been warned.
As far as adult novels go, Gameboard of the Gods was a pretty prodigious prototype to start off with. The characters, for example, were well fleshed out and charming in each of their own particular ways. Mae, the female lead, was altogether kickass and chiefly likeable, despite sometimes coming across as callous and aloof. We can, of course, consistently rely on Richelle Mead to write us strong (if shrewd) heroines. Nevertheless, Mae failed to hold a candle to Justin in terms of development. Nostalgic, torn, and clever, for me Justin is the only character who truly came alive off the page. Tessa especially seemed predominantly robotic to me, a cardboard cutout of a wide-eyed refugee, with no true personality to call her own.
The romance between Mae and Justin was a concrete reminder that Richelle Mead is a YA writer at heart. Although there was no widely scorned love triangle– and thank the gods for that– the romantic framework between them was too classically unexceptional, too over the top to be true. Unfortunately, this cheapened the novel as a whole for me.
I must mention that the world building here is largely absent. That is to say that from page one, we readers are deposited into the depths of the RUNA’s utopian society without explanation or excuse. Culturally relevant vocabulary is lobbed as us– servitor, praetorian, Caine, Mephistopheles– so that we are left guessing until we are able to piece tidings together and fathom their definitions for ourselves. It is not until halfway through the novel that we get any kind of real background. That being said, I honestly did not mind this at all. To the contrary, I quite enjoyed it; it was refreshing to not have your facts handed to you on a silver spoon for once– to be launched into the midst of the action without flowery descriptions or bombastic annals to weigh you down. But that’s me: I like being thrown into the thick of things and figuring them out as I go along. Thus I would only recommend Gameboard of the Gods to you if you’re able to cope with a sink or swim type ballgame. For your sake, I hope you float.
Recommended for fans of female gunslingers, stock romances, and urban mythology. This is not a life-changing book that you will remember until your eternal repose; it is but a middling action/adventure. But it is still probably worth your time. 3.2/5 stars.
I’ll keep you posted,
Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires– the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.
After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger… and the Strigoi are always close by.
Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever…
Look around you, young adults. What YA book is the biggest, hottest, top selling on the market right now? Easy. The Hunger Games.
Why do you think this series is so famous? The awesome Greek mythology inspiration? No. The oh-so-YA love triangle? Nope. The mass murder and gory graphics? Nada. It’s quite simple, actually.
Katniss is a badass.
No, really. She is master of the bow and arrow, courageous enough to volunteer for the Games, and kicks some serious behind. It’s all about the behind kicking these days, I’m telling you.
And Katniss is great at what she does.
But if you thought Katniss was badass…
You haven’t met Rose Hathaway.
Based on Romanian mythology (Romanian! Now that’s original.), Vampire Academy is an action-packed, witty, and addictive read. Mead balances serious mental health issues, vampire hierarchy and hot half-vampires with charm and sarcasm.
Here’s one anecdote that I found especially hilarious…
Lissa and I had been best friends ever since kindergarten, when our teacher had paired us together for writing lessons. Forcing five-year-olds to spell Vasilisa Dragomir and Rosemarie Hathaway was beyond cruel, and we’d– or rather, I’d– responded appropriately. I’d chucked my book at our teacher and called her a fascist bastard. I hadn’t known what those words meant, but I’d known how to hit a moving target.
Lissa and I had been inseparable ever since.
I am not ashamed to say that I laughed for, oh, about 3 minutes straight when I read this for the first time.
Next, let’s talk about the world building. Here are the basics: There are two types of vampires; Moroi and Strigoi. Moroi are mortal and the good guys. They have a hierarchy; a queen, princes, princesses. Lissa, being the
eldest only member of her family, is a Moroi princess. Strigoi are almost immortal and completely evil. There are also half-vampires; Dhampirs. Rose is one of the few female Dhampirs; most half-vampire women have children and become, well… stay at home moms.
I was extremely fascinated by the world building! It was all, even the not-so-pretty aspects, utterly enchanting and well-written. Say what you’d like about Richelle Mead, but she knows how to tell a story. I particularly enjoyed the vampire hierarchy; it was just so… fresh! I’ve never read another YA book involving a catty vampire queen, an evil Moroi revolutionary, and 12 royal families. This takes high school politics to a whole new level.
I’ve read some recent reviews of Vampire Academy on Goodreads. Let me clarify some things that reviewers have to say about Rose.
Rose is not a slut. Rose is wild, reckless, girl who is attempting to become more responsible and learns from her mistakes.
Rose does not crush on a certain someone for no apparent reason. Rose crushes on a certain someone for many reasons, but mainly because he understands her sense of duty.
Rose is not abusively violent. Rose is violent while defending Lissa and when provoked.
Rose is not a shrew. Okay, she is a shrew sometimes ;)
I actually wholeheartedly enjoyed Rose as a character and am excited to be exposed to more of her wit and comebacks in the next VA book.
Other characters I absolutely love include Christian and Dimitri. Christian is overly sarcastic and a little dark. His deceptive appearance delights me; the whole “Why do I go to church? Oh, so I don’t look dangerous.” concept was particularly amusing. His conversations with Lissa were adorable.
Dimitri is, of course, is in a whole different league of hot. He is definitely one of my top YA crushes. I posted as to why he’s my ultimate YA crush yesterday. To resume, though, he recognize’s Rose’s strength; he knows that she can kick ass and respects that. Of course, his swoon-worthy looks do help. A little. ;)
I loved Mead’s approach to depression. She somehow manages to convey how much this illness is scary and serious, but how loyalty sometimes get in the way of realizing just how serious it is.
Just a couple of issues;
1) The swearing. Yes, there is quite a bit of cussing in VA. This is one of these deal or don’t read it in the first place situations.
2) The ending. It just seemed to come a little too quickly; the pacing changed dramatically and it put me a little off. Don’t get me wrong; the ending was action-packed and addictive, just like the rest of the book, it just had a fast onset.
So… I am going to defy all the Vampire Academy haters out there and give it 4.9/5 stars. Quite possibly one of the best YA vamp books. Go Rose!
I’ll keep you posted,