Review: A History of Glitter and Blood

Monday, August 10, 2015

Title: A History of Glitter and Blood
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance, LGBTQIA
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: August 18, 2015

I received an eARC of A History of Glitter and Blood from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary (via Goodreads)
Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies.
But when Beckan's clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn't have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected. 
This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.
I wish I knew how I felt about this book. Even days after I finished, I am still a whole mix of emotions. Part of me is confused, frustrated, and a little bored with it, but then there is another part of me that enjoys the characters that were slowly revealed, the societal questions the book highlights by using fairytale creatures, and the way it is a little grotesque in an almost postmodern Brothers Grimm sort of way (if that even makes sense). Yeah, it is a weird book that probably won't be for everyone.

A History in Glitter and Blood has a rocky start. The beginning is confusing and out of order and very, very difficult to follow. There is no slow introduction to this book or easing into the world. You get thrown in the pool and are forced to either sink or swim in a world that is not really explained.  If I didn't feel so guilty about DNFing a book, I probably would have given up very quickly . Really it wasn't until I was whole 45% into it before I actually started to understand what was going on and get into it.

The story follows a group of four fairies--Beckan, Scrap, Josha, and Cricket--who are caught in a war between fairies, gnomes, and tightropers. When the rest of the fairies leave the city, these fairies do what they have to do to survive, and some of them don't. The characters are very complex and damaged, and because of the jumbled nature of the writing, it takes a while to really get to know them. However, after sticking through it, I ended up really appreciating characters that I wasn't even a fan of in the beginning, such as Scrap.

The world is created very slowly, which is part of why it is difficult to get into the book. For the first half, it feels like not a whole lot really happens. It is in some form of introduction to the fairies' situation and flashbacks to the other events before and during the war. So it is all feels like a very long set up for the events happening in the second half. Also I feel like I only got bits and pieces about the different races and never really got the full picture. Honestly I wish that more of the world was explained. But I guess that is part of the history that this book tries to imitate, that no one knows everything and that history is just one person or race's point of view. 

This book tries to do a lot. The book is a commentary on history using the races of mainly fairies, gnomes, and tightropers. (Also don't ask me what a tightroper is. From what I get, they have two toes, spit ropes from their mouths, and apparently spin taffy in their mouths? I don't even know.) The book is written by an unreliable narrator, a fairy named Scrap. Throughout the book, we learn just how much of an unreliable narrator he is, and it is all done in a very unique way of writing a history book. So even though I thought "why is there someone saying they need to add a map or take this part out" at first, this strange writing style becomes clearer. Eventually. It takes a while.

Okay so fair warning, this book is weird. Like really weird. But I kind of like how strange it was. Many stories with fairies and such are too sparkles and good feelings for me. A History of Glitter and Blood is not. Most fairies have bits that have been eaten by gnomes (and even more creepy is that the fairies are so nonchalant about it), three of the main characters work as prostitutes for the gnomes, and racism of these fairytale creatures is a huge part of the story. This is not a happy little story about fairies. It is gritty and grotesque, and I enjoyed that. Though not going to lie, I really am still a little creeped out by the fact that fairies still feel their body parts after they have been cut off or eaten by gnomes. So gross! Mad respect for the idea process that crafted that, but still it gives me the heeby-geebies.

One detail about A History in Glitter and Blood was how surprisingly open it was with sexuality. In fact, sexuality doesn't even seem to be an issue at all! It was actually quite refreshing, and I loved the way it was handled in the book. Relationships between both genders seemed normal, and there was no issue with characters being intimate with both genders. It was very interesting how this was incorporated into the story seamlessly. 

Rating: 3 out of 5. A History in Glitter and Blood is a book that you have to muscle through to really understand. You may want to give up on it because it is weird as hell at first, but when you start to understand it's weirdness, you learn to appreciate it. So while I still feel a bit confused and a bit weirded out by the book, I am glad that I kept reading.

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