Oh dear. I did not like this book much at all. This will be a ranty, spoilery review. Spoilers will be hidden.
I read a few reviews and saw a number of tweets of various bloggers and reviewers I follow who were expressing concerns over certain topics in the novel. Sometimes I listen to these and don't bother reading the book, but in this case, since my pre order had already been dispatched. (I ordered a kindle and a paperback and then the paperback at the book depository was out of stock so I tried to cancel, after I thought I cancelled they dispatched a hardcover, so I got a hardcover for the price of a paperback. And a kindle copy. Oh well. I will most likely donating the hardcover somewhere.)
I disliked the attitude of the main character right off. The other thing I disliked fairly quickly was that this is supposed to be a fantasy in a made up world, I'm sure I've read "inspired" by our own history. It's identical with made up names! It's so obvious Osfred (London) Adoria (America) the closeness to our actual history was too much to suspend disbelief. And I really detested the idea of the "uncultured" Adorian lands until the people of Osfred or conquered and drove out the "savages". The native people have been living there for however many years and (presumably) living the way they have until someone else shoves them aside as "uncultured" because their ways are different. The constant use of "savages" really pissed me off.
As for the actual story itself – our heroine’s story begins with her family being in financial strait to where she has to agree to an arranged marriage (as is the custom of the nobels) to save their name and what’s left of their fortune. She’s not thrilled. Fair enough, you can kind of understand where she’s coming from there. The dude is her cousin too. So extra icky. The household is disbanding and one of the maids left over is offered an opportunity for something called the Glittering Court. Our heroine overhears this and winds up manipulating things so she takes the maid’s identity and goes off to escape to the Glittering Court.
Where we come to problem number two with this book. The Glittering Court takes girls from low income houses or girls without much hope of a future. Poor girls who go through rigorous training to teach them how to be noble women in the New World of Adoria where they are basically sold to the highest bidder as desirable wives. It’s a match making business with a high price. Our MC Adelaide seems to think this is a good idea. She can escape and find a new life in the New World. My problem with this - isn’t she more or less escaping one arranged marriage to go into another more or less? I think the idea with the glittering court is there is a “courting” process and the technically the girls are supposed to be able to choose but it all comes down to who can offer the best price above what the Glittering Court people are asking. Something about this leaves me with a rather uncomfortable feeling.
The girls set sail to the New World, Adelaide’s incredibly selfish actions lead her friend on a different ship which has a terrible tragedy. And it’s all her fault. She did at least feel remorse for her actions but by that point, she’s still infuriatingly selfish.
Life on the frontier for the two of them was by the far the most interesting part of the book. I would have liked this book much more if it focused on that bit – surviving on the frontier and protecting your gold than all this glittering court nonsense. This is where the real hardship came in and survival is tough and dangerous. There’s more to life than pretty dresses and good matches in marriages. Of course just when things start going well – unsurprisingly it all goes hideously wrong and takes a dramatic turn for the worst.
Most of this book made me incredibly frustrated and I’m actually surprised I managed to finish. I kept telling myself I didn’t like the first Vampire Academy book by the same author, I thought that was pretty rubbish, but I loved the next book and the one after it. So I figured stick with it and it may improve. The story in the Glittering Court improved a little but the characters were pretty awful and the world building was terrible.