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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "The Glittering Court” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Seventeen-year-old Countess of Rothford is young and beautiful but lacks financial resources. As such, her grandmother accepts an offer of marriage for her hand from a wealthy baron. The countess and the baron are not compatible, but she has no money and therefore no choice but to accept his offer.

As her wedding date approaches, the countess becomes more desperate to escape marrying a man she does not love. She sees her chance when she learns that her maid is unhappy about being recruited to the Glittering Court, a finishing school for pretty but low-born young women who are trained and then sent to the new world of Adoria to marry wealthy frontier men. The countess thinks the idea of starting a new life in the new world is exciting and is surprised that her maid would rather live on a farm than take advantage of this opportunity.

The countess pays her maid to secretly leave town and pursue her dreams, and then assumes the maid’s identity of Adelaide Bailey. As Adelaide, she sneaks out of her townhouse and joins Cedric Thorn, the recruiter and owner’s son. Cedric knows she is not the maid he recruited but the noblewoman she worked for, but he goes along with the charade, as he needs the commission that comes with his recruit’s marriage contract. On the way out of town, the carriage is stopped and searched but ultimately allowed to go on. The countess’s grandmother has reported her missing, and there is a search out for her.

Adelaide and the other girls are taken to a country estate to learn how to behave like upper-class women. When Cedric gets Adelaide alone, he confronts her on her deception. She assures him that she is desperate to leave her life in Osfrid. After almost a year of studies, the girls celebrate an end to their studies with a party. Adelaide goes out into the cold night to get some holly plants for decoration and unexpectedly finds Cedric worshiping in an Alanzan ritual. Alanzan worship is illegal and punishable by death. Adelaide confronts Cedric on being a heretic, and he admits that’s reason he needs the commission money: He wants to buy a stake in Westhaven, a new Adorian colony that allows freedom of religion.

Adelaide, who is thankful to Cedric for keeping her secret, has a talent for copying famous works of art. She decides to forge a painting for Cedric to sell in Adoria, providing money to purchase his Westhaven stake in addition to the commission he will get from her bridal contract.

The ocean voyage to Adoria is a long and treacherous one. Adelaide and Cedric secretly spend as much time as they can in the cargo hold of the ship so she can paint. The two grow closer, but Cedric knows that Adelaide cannot be his.

When they get to the Cape Triumph, an Adorian colony, Adelaide is regaled as the top girl in her group, receiving the most beautiful dresses and the most prized invitations to social gatherings. The governor’s son, Warren Doyle, quickly makes an offer for Adelaide’s hand in marriage. Warren has political aspirations, as he is the future Governor of Hadisen, a new colony. Warren is handsome and rich.

The amount he offers for her marriage contract is enough to cover Cedric’s stake, but Adelaide realizes she has romantic feelings for Cedric. Cedric does not like Warren. To further complicate matters, Warren’s mother, Viola, is a noble woman from Osfrid who recognizes Adelaide and threatens to reveal her identity to bounty hunters who haven’t stopped looking for her since she ran away.

While at a dinner party with Warren, he tells Adelaide that he and some other men intend to go out that night and arrest a group of Alanzan heretics who are rumored to be worshiping in the woods. Fearing that Cedric is among the worshipers, Adelaide leaves the party to warn the Alanzans. She finds Cedric, and they escape just as Warren and his men charge into the woods.

On the way back to the Glittering Court house, Cedric and Adelaide take a break to lay under the stars. Cedric explains the Alanzan wedding ceremony, and they kiss. While Cedric has feelings for Adelaide, he knows she isn’t for him so he finds another man, an attorney, Nicholas Adleton, to make an offer for her. Nicholas is an attorney who isn’t wealthy, but he is kind, and Adelaide will have a good life with him.

Before Nicolas can raise the money for Adelaide’s bridal contract, Viola tips off bounty hunters that the countess is among the women at the Glittering Court. The countess can’t be sent back to Osfrid if she is already married, so Viola hopes the fear of being discovered will force Adelaide’s hand to marry her son.

Adelaide feels pressured. She’s in love with Cedric but has agreed to marry Nicholas to avoid marrying Warren. The night before she’s set to marry Nicholas, she secretly meets Cedric and is caught kissing him. Cedric’s father is furious, as the scandal will spread throughout the community and the Glittering Court’s reputation will be tarnished.

Cedric wants to marry Adelaide, but he cannot afford her contract price. To his surprise, Warren offers him the opportunity to mine gold on one of his claims in Hadisen. Cedric would work the claim, keep any gold that is found and pay Warren an owner’s commission. Cedric has two months to pay off the bridal contract debt to his father. If he can’t earn the money in two months, the debt switches to Warren.

Cedric agrees, and he and Adelaide join the wagon train and make the long, difficult trip to Hadisen. On the way to Hadisen, Warren gets into a confrontation with Icori warriors. Icori are a tribe of people who fled Osfrid for Adoria centuries before and hold a tenuous peace with settlers.

When the group reaches Hadisen, Cedric works the claim and fixes up the small shanty on the land while Adelaide works as a governess to a family of settlers. The work is difficult for the two as neither is accustomed to hard, manual labor. When Adelaide finishes with her tutoring and household duties for the day, she joins Cedric, and they work the claim together.

When the bounty hunter arrives in Hadisen on Viola’s tip that the Countess of Rothford is there, Cedric finds an Alanzan magistrate who secretly marries them and promises to keep the secret until after Cedric can pay for Adelaide’s contract. The two are married in an Alanzan ceremony under the stars.

Adelaide and Cedric find a gold deposit at the claim and ask Warren for more equipment and explosives to help with the mining. Warren brings his men to the claim and when the explosives go off too close to Cedric, almost killing him, Adelaide realizes that has been Warren’s plan all along. On Warren’s orders, Cedric is brutally beat up and thrown in the river to drown.

Warren corners Adelaide in the shanty and tries to rape her. He tells her that he intended to make Cedric’s death look like an accident, and after a brief period of mourning, convince Adelaide to marry him instead. Since Adelaide discovered his plan, he will rape and kill her, making their deaths appear to be the work of bandits.

Adelaide stabs Warren in the thigh with a ritual Alanzan dagger. Before she can escape, the bounty hunter, Cedric and one of their neighbors burst into the shanty. Warren, noticing that the dagger is Alanzan, demands Cedric be arrested for being a heretic, and Adelaide for being his accomplice.

Adelaide reveals that she is the Countess of Rothford and both she and Cedric are sent back to Cape Triumph where Cedric will be put on trial. Cedric asks Adelaide to keep their marriage a secret so she will not be accused of being a heretic by association.

During the trial, Warren lies that in an act of desperation to get out of their contract with him, Cedric and Adelaide attacked and tried to kill him. During his testimony, Cedric lies and denies being Alanzan.

Adelaide finds a buyer for her forged painting and uses the money to buy a stake in the Westhaven colony for Cedric. Stakeholders are citizens and are allowed to freely practice their religion in other colonies. With Nicholas’ legal help, she gets the sale backdated so Cedric can claim retroactive protection as a citizen of Westhaven.

Adelaide causes everything to work out, but too late. The trial is over, and Cedric is at the gallows waiting to be hanged. Just before the hanging, an army of Icori invade the colony accusing Warren of aiding colony soldiers in attacking Icori lands. Warren has been trying to stir up discord and draw Osfrid’s army out of the central colonies to make it easier for Hadisen and other colonies to rebel against the crown.

Warren is arrested and sent back to Osfrid for trial for treason. Adelaide and Cedric have a second wedding with family and friends before traveling to Westhaven. After Warren is arrested, Cedric is legally able to sell the Hadisen claim and gold mine for a large sum, paying off Adelaide’s bridal contract with a small fortune left over. Adelaide writes a letter to her grandmother back to Osfrid renouncing her title as countess.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

People of Osfrid worship Uros as the one, true god, and the six glorious angels that serve him. The Osfridian church also believes another six wayward angels had fallen and become demons. Alanzans, considered heretics by the church, worship all 12 angels. Alanzan worship is punishable by death, and its followers practice in secret.

Cedric, who is Alanzan, explains to Adelaide that Alanzans worship Uros as the sky father, just as all orthodox do. Alanzans pray that all the angels, glorious and wayward, will be reconciled. Alanziel and Deanziel were the first two angels to rebel. They fell in love but love wasn’t allowed for angels who were supposed to be above human passions.

Uros banished them; the other four wayward angels soon followed as they, too, refused to close themselves off to emotions. They wanted to embrace feelings and guide mortals to do the same. Uros banned Alanziel and Deanziel from the divine realms and from each other. He made her the sun and he the moon, and they are never together.

Adelaide, who first believes Alanzans to be akin to demon worshipers, changes her opinion over time after getting to know Cedric. While she doesn’t convert her religion, she becomes sympathetic.

Authority Roles

Following the death of Adelaide’s parents, her grandmother Alice raised her. Adelaide loves Alice, but they do not share the same ideas on marriage. Adelaide wants to marry for love, but her grandmother insists she needs to marry a rich, titled man to save their family name. Adelaide runs away despite the love and respect she has for her grandmother. Her grandmother never stops looking for her.

Cedric and his father, Jasper, have a strained relationship. This was Cedric’s first season recruiting for the Glittering Court, and Jasper belittles him and has little confidence in his son’s decisions. Jasper berates Cedric both publicly and privately. Cedric lies to his father about the most important thing in his life, his religion. After Cedric is arrested, Jasper refuses to support him and only attends the trial because the outcome reflects on the Glittering Court.

Adelaide’s friend Tansim has a loving relationship with her family and misses them terribly. She is determined to be the best at the Glittering Court so she can marry well and lift her family out of poverty.


Profanity includes: b--ch, whore, h--- and d--n.

Warren’s men attempt to kill Cedric with explosives, then beat and kick him viciously before throwing him into a river to drown. Adelaide knocks one of Warren’s men unconscious with a skillet. Warren points a gun at Adelaide, knocks her face down, holds her hands and rips her clothes in an attempt to rape her. Adelaide escapes by grabbing a dagger and stabbing Warren in the thigh.

On her way to sell the forged artwork, armed men stop Adelaide. They want to take her back to Osfrid for the reward. Adelaide manages to cut a few of them with her knife, but she is outnumbered. Two pirates who slam the pommel of their swords into the men’s heads rescue her. Adelaide isn’t sure if the attackers are dead or alive afterward. Blood is depicted.

At the gallows, Warren shoots at Adelaide and another man and misses. Mira shoots Warren with an arrow instead.


At the finishing school, Adelaide spends time reading a book on sex, pregnancy, childbirth and how a wife should please her husband in the bedroom. Her friend Tansin tells her that she knows a girl who had sex with a man who promised to marry her, but the man left her and married another woman.

When Cedric kisses Adelaide for the first time, she finally understands how silly girls could give their virtue to men before marriage. While Adelaide intends to stay virtuous until her wedding, she tells Cedric that she has a very creative definition of the word virtuous. Before Adelaide is to marry Nicolas, she thought it would be her last night with Cedric, and she had plans to push the limits on that definition as far as they can go. They are in the process of undressing when they are discovered.

Aiana, a native Balanquan woman who works for the Glittering Court, tells Adelaide that she ran away from an arranged marriage with an abusive woman. Balanquans don’t view same-sex marriages as taboo the way Osfridians do. Aiana did not mind being married to a woman.

Cedric and Adelaide kiss in secret a few times before they are discovered. After they get to Hadisen, Adelaide and Cedric kiss and even swim naked, but they are careful not to become physically intimate as they are waiting until after they are married to have sex.

Mistress Marshall, the woman who hires Adelaide to tutor her children, give her cinnamon thorn tealeaves for birth control. She tells Adelaide that when she is in their home, Adelaide must be respectable and keep with virtues dictated by Uros, but when she is out of their house, she knows that intensions and actions rarely line up. The tea is to prevent her from getting into trouble.

On their wedding night, Adelaide and Cedric bathe each other in a pond and have sex on his coat in the grass. In the weeks that follow, they have sex while they are at the shanty, and Adelaide drinks cinnamon thorn tea to prevent conception. After they are married for a second time, they spend their wedding night and the next morning having sex in a cottage that has been loaned to them. Sex is never described in any detail.

When Warren tries to rape Adelaide, he tells her that he smells the cinnamon thorn tea in the shanty so he knows she is no longer a virgin. He doesn’t feel guilty about raping her since she has already given her virtue away so feely. After Adelaide is rescued, Warren accuses her of seducing him and then changing her mind, of being a girl without morals who would sleep with anyone.

During the trial, Adelaide is asked if she and Cedric were lovers. Without admitting that they are married, she tells the tribunal that preserving her virtue was a principle she adhered to her entire life and she would never give her virginity to a man she wasn’t married to.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Vices: Adelaide and Cedric lie, steal and make and sell forged artwork to an unsuspecting buyer.

Alcohol: Alcohol is consumed.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

15 and up


Richelle Mead






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Razonbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House


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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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