A History of Glitter and Blood: Review

July 8, 2015 2015, 3 star books, creepy, faeries, fantasy, Layla, lgbtq 18 ★★★

A History of Glitter and Blood: ReviewA History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
Published by Chronicle Books on August 4, 2015
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 280 pages
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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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’m not entirely sure how I feel about Hannah Moskowitz’s new book, A History of Glitter and Blood. It is a really weird book, you all, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It was not entirely to my liking and I still can’t stop thinking about it?  Books about fairies are not my thing, and thinking about unreliable narrators reminds me of how much I disliked We Were Liars, but hey, I picked this one up because the cover was pretty and Moskowitz writes queer-centric fiction. If you like weird books and fairies and unreliable narrators and thinking about how history’s written, you’ll probably like this, though. I suspect it’ll be a polarizing read.

Why is it weird? Well. There are fairies. Who are covered in glitter. And gnomes who eat fairies, despite disliking the taste of glitter. (And most fairies are missing some body parts as a result. Our heroine, Beckan, only has her father’s tooth, eye, and ear in a jar – but he’s still alive!) And there’s a war on between the tightropers and the gnomes for control of the fairy city, Ferrum. Our heroes – four fairies who have mostly not been gnawed on by gnomes – decide to stick it out in Ferrum though the rest of the fairies flee to safety, and they end up having to prostitute themselves out to the gnomes to survive the war, and maybe one of these fairies kills the gnome king. (This all happens before the action of the book starts, so … not super spoilery, but yes, it is a really dark book.)

Also, and this delighted me, there are a number of illustrations and archival evidence because A History of Glitter and Blood is … an attempt at writing a history. Fairly early on in the book, it becomes clear that the book is just one character’s chronicle of events – and it’s clear, too, that it isn’t one that’s authoritative or all-encompassing, as much as our historian wants it to be. What emerges is this one fairy’s attempt to gain control and understanding of differently unruly events – war, falling in love, whatever – through writing a history and, IMO, it ends up being a pretty interesting premise for a novel. (Also, I did actually get a kick out of some of the illustrations – some of which depict the anatomical differences between gnomes, fairies, tightropers, and wolves, which our narrator has a thing for).

What I liked most about this book were the relationships between the main characters, which is good, because relationships (not action) are the primary focus of this novel. Beckan’s our lead, but there is a pretty significant supporting cast that is comprised of three other fairies, two gnomes, and a tightroper, and man, watching all those relationships play out was delightful. Especially because these relationships sometimes unfold in non-normative ways? (As a queer reader, I loved the fluidity of characters’ desires in this book – everything’s happening along a spectrum, and there’s no attempt to define anyone or pin anything down. I am 100% okay with this!) Along these lines, Beckan’s friendship with the other three fairies – Scrap, Cricket, and Josha – was just super wonderful to me. Cricket and Josha are in love, but they’re all also teenage fairies, and all a little bit in love with each other, and all bound differently to one another, and they come to think of themselves as a pack. And found families are one of my favorite things to read about, so I liked reading about the complexities of their relationship.

I also liked the way that this complexity extended to the fairies’ relationship with Rig and Tier, two gnomes who also end up becoming part of this found family (in spite of the fact that gnomes just want to eat fairies View Spoiler ») because they’re also committed to envisioning a different future for themselves. View Spoiler »

However, despite all of these things, I wanted more from this book – more on the world-building and background to the events of the story, certainly, because I felt like I was mostly puzzling things out along the way. I particularly wanted more information on the different sorts of beings in this book – fairies, tightropers, and gnomes – because understanding the histories between them would have made the relationships that end up forming between them more significant to me. Additionally, in terms of the story’s background, I just didn’t understand characters’ motivations at points; for example, it was difficult for me to understand why Beckan, Cricket, Josha, and Scrap make the decision to fight it out in Terran anyway (when the rest of the fairies flee) because there wasn’t enough that explained their attachment to it for me. (Why not go? Why are you here risking being eaten? I know it’s your city and you feel a responsibility for it, but I don’t entirely get why). But, on the other hand, it’s one person’s account of an event, and is imperfect and partial as a result. So I get it? But I wanted more.

I’ll say also that the book made me uncomfortable in places. That’s not always a bad thing, but it was definitely a part of my reading experience here. Basically, there were moments where the power dynamics in some relationships seemed kind of screwy to me. View Spoiler »

I’m still not sure whether I’d recommend this or not, or whether I should try something else by Moskowitz. Has anyone else read A History of Glitter and Blood? If so, what’d you think? I suspect feelings about this are going to be all over the place.

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An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.







18 Responses to “A History of Glitter and Blood: Review”

  1. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    So I just tried to read this and, though I’ve liked the three other Moskowitz books I’ve read, I don’t think I can do this. I love your spoiler about the character resolutions, but also I couldn’t get through the first chapter. It’s simultaneously disgusting, off-putting, confusing, and boring. :( DISAPPOINTEDDDDDDD (she screams like Hercules).
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Review: Deceptive by Emily Lloyd-Jones

  2. J. Oh

    Whoa, definitely sounds pretty weird. Which, like you say, is not necessarily a bad thing, but because it’s also quite dark, it looks like I’ll pass on this one. Thank you for the thorough review :)

  3. Jo

    Your review has me really intrigued! Parts of it sound so good, so I’m quite eager to give this a go, despite your misgivings about certain things! I’ve only read one other book by Moskowitz, Not Otherwise Specified, but it was brilliant! It’s her name plus the non-normativity you mentioned that really has me interested, so I’m looking forward to trying this! Thanks for the review!
    Jo recently posted…Review: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

  4. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    Just by the cover and title (glitter & blood, wha!?) I had decided to ignore this one without really bothering to read the summary. But now after reading your review I’m really intrigued about giving it a try, even if I’m not sure I’ll like this one! I usually like weird books and the fact that it’s written as if it was history being written down sounds really interesting, but I cannot get pass how the whole “gnome eating fairies” thing feel!!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Mark This Book Monday: Burn and The Wrath & The Dawn!!!

  5. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    I was gifted an arc of this book and I started it immediately. I must admit, it was very different than I expected. I decided to put it aside for the time being because I had pressing books that needed to be reviewed. I hope to come back to it this month or next so I was very curious to hear your opinion of the book overall. I’m still interested enough to try to finish the book. Wonderful review!
    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted…Review of Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

  6. Hilary

    I don’t think I’ve ever been more confused after I’ve read a recap in my life but I’m not saying it’s because of you, Layla! It’s the whole premise of this is so weirdly wild and…I’m on the fence. I want to read it because my curiosity is piqued but at the same time, there’s something holding me back, I’m not sure how to explain it. Great recap though!
    Hilary recently posted…Would Your Childhood/Tween Favourites Still Be Your Current Favourites?

    • Layla

      It might also be me! ;) But this book was hard to recap. (The world-building is nuts, not necessarily in a bad way, but in one where it’s … more than the sum of its parts? Like saying it’s about gnomes who eat fairies is accurate but it’s also not everything.) It’s absolutely weird and wild and it will be totally perfect for some folks and totally not for others. Hard to know where anyone might fall.
      Layla recently posted…Lies We Tell Ourselves: Review

    • Layla

      If you do give it a shot, let me know what you think. (Man, I hated We Were Liars and this book is also weird, but in a totally different way.) I’m not sure if you’ll like it if you generally like books about fairies because I bet this doesn’t have much in common with those. Anyway, maybe worth a go?
      Layla recently posted…Lies We Tell Ourselves: Review

  7. Hannah

    I was firmly on team YES for this one, even though I can see why a lot of people aren’t going to like it. But this one absolutely worked for me – I ADORED IT. From the utter bizarreness of it all, to the relationships, the fluidity of the characters’ sexuality, the uncomfortable nature of some of these relationships, due to the aforementioned power dynamics and the war, the recovery from trauma…

    Looking back though, I do agree with the criticisms you pointed out.
    Hannah recently posted…Review: Jackaby – William Ritter

    • Layla

      Yeah, I think I really appreciated the book’s unconventionality ? And total bizarreness? Even if I didn’t 100% love it (and I didn’t, I don’t think I’m the best reader for this book) I’m still really glad that it exists in the world. It’s different from a lot of YA fantasy – or even adult fantasy – and I think more variety w/in the genre is only to the good.

      So glad this one worked for you tho. :-D I really liked the fluidity of the characters’ sexuality – that, and the relationships, were probably my favorite aspect of the book. Very neat, very interesting! I can read about relationships (particularly queer relationships) foreverrrrr.
      Layla recently posted…A History of Glitter and Blood: Review

  8. kindlemom1

    I love how you described this as a polarizing read! Okay, even if this was weird, I do like that you are still thinking about it long after, that certainly says something. ;)
    Wonderful honest review!
    kindlemom1 recently posted…WoW Pick of the Week!

    • Layla

      It was weird, but yes, I’m still thinking about it. And I do think that says something? Basically, I think it was a really interesting book, and even though I finished it a week ago (maybe a bit more) I’m trying to sort through my feelings about it. Which … I think is all to its credit? :)
      Layla recently posted…A History of Glitter and Blood: Review

  9. Madiha @ Symphony of Words

    Oh, wow. Talk about original. The premise sounds so interesting, and there is so much scope for the author to explore with a plot like this. Illustrations? I’m excited now. The fact that this is a really dark book and that a lot of taboo topics are explored makes me want to jump into this even more. Unreliable narrators are my boggart, but I love them all the same. This one is going to be a definite TBR candidate for me. Beautiful review, Layla :)
    Madiha @ Symphony of Words recently posted…The Bookshelf Tag (An Excuse to take pictures of beautiful books)

    • Layla

      It is really interesting and very different from other fantasy novels I’ve read before. So it has that going for it. If you’re at all curious, give it a try (and then come back and let me know what you think, because I seriously suspect that people are going to have a wide range of responses to this one). There are some illustrations – photographs and drawings – as well as other kinds of “historical” documents. (I’m a sucker for any book that considers the use of different media in telling a story, so I really liked this.)

      Unreliable narrators … I liked Nova Ren Suma’s latest book (The Walls Around Us) but generally this is not my thing. But if it’s yours, you might like A History of Glitter and Blood! My impulse is always to try and ferret out what is really going on (but to the extent where I can’t enjoy the story anymore because I’m so busy second- and third-guessing myself). Anyhow. I hope you enjoy it when you get to it. :-D
      Layla recently posted…A History of Glitter and Blood: Review

    • Layla

      It was a really interesting read, though I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it still. It was weird! And I’m still trying to work through that, as well as through my feelings of discomfort. Going into it, I knew it was about fairies, and because I’d never read anything by Moskowitz before, I had no idea what to expect … but I definitely wasn’t expecting this.

      (And yeah, eating glitter sounds awwwwful. Also the glitter is like … part of the fairy, and so still alive in some way?)
      Layla recently posted…A History of Glitter and Blood: Review