The premise of Glitter – a story set in a time with residents of the Palace of Versailles dressing and acting as if it’s the 18th Century – intrigued me. The author’s website describes the book as “Marie Antoinette meets Breaking Bad” and I suppose that’s an apt description, as our heroine – and I use the term loosely – resorts to selling drugs to get out of a difficult situation. Unfortunately, I found nothing admirable or likeable about this character or the majority of the secondary characters and struggled to finish the book.
The setting and backstory for Glitter fascinates me. Sonoma – an international conglomerate — made its fortune in 2036 by ending a worldwide famine caused by a disease that infected all grains on Earth. France, on the brink of financial disaster, agreed to sell the Palace of Versailles to a puppet company that turned out to be Sonoma. Sonoma managed to turn Versailles into its own country – Sonoman-Versailles – with the CEO of the company becoming king. While the residents of the Palace dress and act as if they’re in the 18th Century, they rely on bots and complicated tracking devices to manage their lives.
On paper, seventeen year old Danica Grayson has a life that most in her 22nd century world aspire to. When her father inherited a huge block of voting shares in Sonoma, the family moved to the Palace of Versailles. With no status, Danica was scorned by many in the Palace and was able to make just a few close friends. Her life changed forever when she saw the nineteen-year old king (a truly despicable character) strangle a woman while having sex. Danica’s mother, a horrific, scheming woman with no concern for her daughter, blackmails the king into marrying Danica. Danica is appalled at the idea of marrying a murderer. The two won’t marry until Danica is eighteen, giving her six months to figure out a way to escape the union.
As the book opens Danica has stolen some valuable jewelry and hopes to sell it to buy her way to freedom and safety. Reginald, the criminal she goes to, lets her know that it’s going to take five million euros to escape, far more than the jewels are worth. Danica is devastated, uncertain what she can do in order to obtain that much money.
Almost by accident, Danica discovers her father has an expensive drug habit. He’s been buying patches of Glitter – a highly addictive drug that enters the system through contact with the skin. Does Danica try to help her father get off drugs? Of course not; instead, she senses that Glitter will be the answer to her problems, and makes a deal with her father’s supplier – who turns out to be Reginald. Danica proposes to deal Glitter mixed into pots of cosmetics to the court at Versailles. This also allows Danica to be in frequent contact with Reginald’s young assistant Saber, who Danica finds intensively attractive.
The story is told completely from Danica’s PoV, and it’s not a PoV I enjoyed. While she has a few minor moments of remorse, her focus remains fixed on making five million euros. Along the way she enables her father’s addiction, gets many people in the court addicted to Glitter, and never really worries about the consequences – and there are some bad ones. In fact, Danica has moments of pride when she realizes just how addicted some powerful people have become. I found Danica to be completely selfish, focused solely on her own desires. I guess I was supposed to root for her to achieve her goal, but I just didn’t like her enough to care whether she escaped or not. Danica and Saber eventually become lovers, but it never felt believable to me, and occurs largely off-page.
There are a number of twists at the end, and Glitter definitely ends on a cliff hanger. I disliked Danica so much that I can’t imagine wanting to read a sequel, should there be one, to find out what happens to her and Saber. Ultimately, I’m incredibly frustrated that such an interesting world was wasted on such an unworthy heroine.