A History of Glitter and Blood
by Hannah Moskowitz
Expected Publication Date: August 5, 2015
Length: 280 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
This book was odd. Weird. Peculiar. Any other synonym you can think of, insert it here. I finished A History of Glitter and Blood a few days ago, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be quite through processing my feelings on it. There were several elements I liked, but the story as a whole was bizarre. I thought I liked weird books, but I’m not 100% I really liked this one. I’m also not sure I understood part of it, which trust me, nothing makes you feel weirder than having an English degree and feeling like you’re missing something in a YA book. That stuff about YA being complex isn’t just a throwaway line, folks.
A History of Glitter and Blood is about fairies, gnomes, tightropers, war, and a romance. At the beginning of the book, the city of Ferrum(clever) is in the middle of the war with these three races. The war is part of the story, certainly, but it’s not really about the war. The about and the whys are revealed at the end, piece by piece through the book. It’s an extremely meta book, as A History of Glitter and Blood is written as if the book itself is being written by one of the characters, a self-confessed unreliable narrator. There are footnotes and illustrations, asides and direct addresses to the other characters in the book. I absolutely love this kind of narrative technique, and it’s one thing that kept me reading despite the confusion I had in the beginning. That does mean, though, that the story gets difficult to follow at times because everything is slapdash. On purpose, sure, but that never really negated my frustration at how confused I was so frequently.
A History of Glitter and Blood focuses on Beckan and her companions. Beckan is one of the last surviving fairies left in the city, and life is rough. While it’s manageable, it’s only through a combination of less-than-reputable means that Beckan and her friends are able to survive. The circumstances often find them prostituting to the gnomes, a species that has rather less than desirable relationships with fairies. . . considering gnomes often eat fairies, so everything is always tainted by this danger. Beckan may be the main character, but she’s not the narrator of the story, so it’s hard to tell what part of any of the characters is “real” or made up in the story world. It’s really cleverly done, but I think it’s most likely one of those things that would be difficult to really “get” unless you dive in and see for yourself. It’s not in any way an easy book to describe.
A History of Glitter and Blood is not quite like anything else I’ve ever read. . . which is great! Mostly. But that doesn’t mean it was free of problems. I was so, SO intrigued by the world, which kept me reading, but the characters were. . . slippery, for lack of a better term. Up until the halfway point, I kept getting most of the secondary characters confused with each other. A name would appear and I would think “oh, right, is he the gnome client? Wait, no, no, he’s the tightroper. Or her friend? Both? I can’t remember). That was probably my main issue. I could deal with the confusion from the world and the storytelling because I knew it was intentional, but I had a MUCH harder time jiving with not being able to tell some of the characters apart.
Yet no matter what, this book was extremely compelling. I do think I prefer Hannah Moskowitz’s contemporary YA to her speculative(I also thought Teeth was a little too weird & out there for me. . . though between the two of them, I think I prefer A History of Glitter and Blood), but her writing is bold and daring and obviously talented. The narrative devices are used effectively and an unreliable narrator done well almost always adds a little extra OOMPH to a book for me.
I think I mostly liked this one? I’d probably read it again for the strangeness factor alone, and it is the kind of book that feels richly layered. 3/5 cupcakes.