(I got a copy through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.) This one... Well. Part of the plot was interesting, in that it offered an opening on the stories of three young women who may or may not be able to create a life for themselves... yet other plot points were a bit dumb, to say the least. Or worse. First, the good: in spite of the whole Glittering Court premise (taking common-born girls and educating them to make them noble-looking wife material), the three main girl characters had motivations of their own to join that "school". For Mira the refugee, without many prospects in Osfrid, joining the 'Court is a way to try and make another kind of life for herself: she's getting an education, she's leaving for the "New World", and even though it's basically to snatch a husband, she hopes she'll find another opportunity during that time she's bought for herself. For Tamsin, it's also an opportunity, one to rise in a world that otherwise will keep her poor at beast, and possibly forced to do darker deeds at worst (it's never clearly said—I suppose it will be revealed in book 3—but I'm positive she'd under some kind of threat, and being the best student, getting the best husband in the lot, is the only solution for her to, paradoxically, free herself). For "Adelaide", it's about reaching for the unknown, because the known is going to be a prison of its own, and she's so trapped she's ready to do anything to escape, including something dumb (more about this below). There's also a whole Frontier/New World dynamic that goes past the initial, slightly insipid "let's learn fashion and manners and wear nice dresses" idea. I probably wouldn't have lasted through 400 pages of seeing the girls learn to act like proper ladies—or if it had been about that, I would've needed much more intrigue thrown in the middle to keep myself busy—so the parts where the girls are in the New World On the downside... Adelaide's motives were incredibly dumb and made no sense: facing the prospect of an arranged marriage with an insufferable man and his over-controlling grandmother, she uses the Court as an opportunity to run away... yet the whole thing is dumb because the Court is precisely what she tries to avoid, with perhaps a few more potential choices for a future husband, but that's all. Basically, it's still about getting married (sold), and going through the motions to attract a man's (buyer's) eye, and without much choice in the end, because if she doesn't fetch enough of a price, or if she refuses to marry, she has to work (in bad conditions) to buy back her contract. I think I would've enjoyed her "deciding to create her own fate" idea much, much better if she had joined a band of highwaymen, or whatever else. Like marrying the first guy, taking his money, then arranging for the controlling grandma to fall down the stairs. For instance. Unsurprisingly, I was also much unfazed when it came to the romance. The love interest is a nice guy all around, and a decent person, and definitely not the worst choice of partner, for sure. However, he remained bland, without much personality—and that's really too bad, since it enforces the stereotype that "nice guys aren't interesting", which may become in turn "the only good romance must be with a bad guy". (Not necessarily what happens in this novel, it's just the way I perceived it: if the good guys aren't made interesting enough, people are going to look to the less savory ones... won't they?) I feel that overall, this "dull" side to the main male character also expanded to the story as a whole. There are quite a few things happening, sea storms, rumours of pirates, a scheming noble, adventure/being pioneers in a faraway colony, some revenge plot (that everybody save for the MCs would've seen coming through the thickest fog on the darkest night ever), and yet I was never excited by what the girls went through. I still don't understand how it came that events sometimes piled upon each other too quickly, to the point of being wrapped up a little too neatly at the end through a series of coincidences, making it look like so much was happening... and at the same time remained dull and without much of an actual plot. And hinting all the way at the two other girls' secrets, and never revealing what they are. Argh. The setting didn't help: basically a Regency/Victorian Europe (=Osfrid) vs. a New World (=Adoria) with budding colonies, including "Alanzan heretics" looking for a place to worship in peace (=Protestants/Puritans), only the "natives" aren't Native Americans but some sort of Celt-looking people. Anyway, it was much too close to our world's history to be really original, and not very developed, resting on this "closeness", therefore adding to the feeling of a cardboard backdrop. Moreover, it was problematic when it comes to the whole colonisation/"civilised men vs. savages" aspect, because it doesn't stray from any colonial vision, first by sort of trying to make the whole Glittering Court look glamorous when it's not (it's not slavery, granted, but still a form of indenture with selling oneself to a man the only outcome), then by demeaning the "natives". I kept hoping that there'd be some different undertones here, something to undermine the racist outlook on this, yet if there was, I couldn't feel it. So. Meh. 1.5 stars.