Novel: A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz | Goodreads
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Chronicle Books
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.
A History of Glitter and Blood is one of the oddest and most captivating stories I’ve ever read. It’s edgy and literary and raw, but also messy and lovely and so, so creative. For anybody who ever finds themselves frustrated with tropes or formulas, A History of Glitter and Blood is the most bizarre way to solve that. It’s based in all these gorgeous moments and tangled relationships that build to become exactly what the title promises: history.
Although I’ve read this before, roughly 2-3 years ago, I appreciate so much more about the execution this time around. It’s brilliant. I’m crossing some of my YA wires with my philosophy wires because what it really reminds me of is a Milan Kundera book. It’s so meta, and constantly references itself and the uncertain reliability of what the words are telling you.
On the surface, A History of Glitter and Blood is a complex, post-apocalyptic type of fairy tale. The gnomes and the tightropers fight, and the fairies run away (as fairies always do.) As you comb through the pages, the tensions between the races become obvious, as their histories conflict and cast each creature’s perceptions into doubt. The gnomes view the fairies as oppressors; the fairies view the gnomes as predator. The tightropers are conquistadors, overseeing it all with an inhumane glee.
The world-building is truly spectacular. Fathers live in jars, never dead, just lost. Beckan sheds glitter from the back of her neck. The city is barren and feels barren, although Moskowitz doesn’t waste time with much sensory description of their surroundings.
Even the formatting of the book is insane. There are ink spills on pages and pasted segments and cross-outs, a masterpiece of formal elements.
It’s such a pervasive atmosphere: unsettling but warm. The voice is UNREAL. I crave the atmosphere because it’s so distinctive. And I love that I loved all the characters but never trusted them, because the violence inherent in the book’s premise ensures that you’ll find yourself crushed at points.
Although it’s scattered, it often builds in intensity and there’s a distinct narrative there. I was never lost, although Moskowitz was never afraid to take risks or go out on tangents. The foreboding and foreshadowing remind me a lot of the anguished accounts of Code Name Verity or Revolution, contributing to the idea of A History of Glitter and Blood as a historical account.
And although the formatting and the jumping around and the unreliable, haunted characters are all huge points for me in terms of books I would normally love, A History of Glitter and Blood wouldn’t have had nearly the same effect on me if not for the gorgeous writing.
Hannah Moskowitz picks the strangest words for certain sentiments, but they each work in synesthetic ways. The structure of the lines is tight and tense, and her imagery shines despite the gory setup of the war.
“but really, most of his experiences with Scrap have been filtered through Beckan. She hands books from one to the other. She tells them stories that will make them all trust each other and trust her when she’s with them.”
“I. Do. Not. Blame. Her.
Just making that clear.”
“They gasp behind boulders.”
There were lines I loved for formulaic reasons (like I will always love when a writer mentions stars) and others that rang true in deeply human and personal ways. Part of why it feels so effective for Moskowitz to frame such searing complexities between people in the context of a fantastical, otherworldly conflict is that it allows the feelings to really sneak up on you. To pierce you so much more deeply. For example, Beckan sleeps with a shy gnome, Tier, for money while his betrothed is kidnapped by the tightropers, and she relies on him for a strange sense of kinship and security. The maturity with which each character reevaluated their relationships throughout the entire story made them so much more flawed. Illuminated so much more history and pain. I was floored by how it all untangled, and how it all still felt clear and elegant.
Beckan was the unbroken girl of the bunch, who everybody wanted to treat as breakable but wasn’t. Although she isn’t the narrator, she was definitely the main character. She’s introspective almost to a fault, and she resonated so much with me. Josha is judgmental and grieving, stubborn in his lack of forgiveness, and was constantly brooding. Scrap is, to put it simply, an absolute mess of emotion. Charismatic but confused. Fiery with nowhere to put it.
I think one of the parts that I loved most was that even minor characters were made immediately compelling and complex. They had firmly articulated feelings that challenged each other and complicated their painful and glorious world. Hannah Moskowitz executed it all smartly.
The plot takes a while to get up off the ground, but the piecing together of their shaky pasts propels the book forward into the main drama. At one point, I thought it was mainly about grief; at another, about race relationships.
I loved the formality of the articles, of the drawings and stains and photographs. Everything about the book is a giant risk, which means that it’s so much more convincing in its otherness. For me, because it worked, it really worked. I would recommend it to fans of dark or fractured fairytales, dystopia, or extremely literary fiction. For individual title comparisons, it’s like Code Name Verity meets The Weight of Feathers, or maybe City of Ember meets Tiger Lily. It’s industrial, heartwrenching, and weird, but also enormously satisfying.