The Glittering World: Some style, but no substance
Robert Levy’s supernatural debut leaves a lot to be desired
Page File When I hear “mysterious race of beings” on the back of a book, my mind goes straight to aliens, not strange, supernatural, fairy-like creatures, so The Glittering World wasn’t quite the book I thought it would be.
It’s being pitched as a Neil Gaiman-esque kind of story and you can see why the publisher went there. The novel has elements of The Ocean at the End of the Lane in Robert Levy’s debut novel, but it’s a stretch to put the two in the same bracket.
The book is split up into four point-of-view sections for each of the main characters and it perhaps doesn’t help much that we open with Blue, who’s supposed to be the magnetically attractive and hugely appealing rumpled hero, but comes across like a self-indulgent ass.
Despite the fact that his cooking is so good that everyone comes over all orgasmic when they eat it, Blue is in trouble with his restaurant. Like all great artists, he just has no head for business (yawn). Now that he’s in trouble with some loan shark and his grandmother has conveniently died, leaving him a house, he road-trips up from the US to Canada to sell off the old place, which is just a few miles from where he spent his early childhood in a commune. As soon as he gets there, though, he starts seeing things in the forest and begins to wonder just why he remembers so little of his formative years.
So far so pedestrian. But at least Blue isn’t just wandering aimlessly around the world getting people to inexplicably want to have sex with him and/or his food for no reason – it turns out there is a reason for it, and it’s all tied up with something supernatural that happened to him when he went missing for two weeks as a child.
This is where things go down the love-of-the-land fairy route, with a dash of Celtic mysticism and a sprinkling of casual Celtic racism (“We’re Scottish, so we drink!”), although not without a dark side. Like the original Celtic fairy tales, these sprites are of the nasty variety and their “glittering world” is a glamour meant to ensnare the unwary.
Levy isn’t the first to do the whole fairies in a modern setting thing, and he probably won’t be the last. He does a decent job of marrying the modern to the supernatural and the story runs along at a fair clip. But there’s just something missing.
None of his main characters is particularly likeable and because of the number of compulsions being thrown about by supernatural forces, their motivations aren’t really their own either, which makes it a bit difficult to get invested in what happens to them. Those supernatural forces are interesting, but you don’t get any real glimpse behind the curtain there either – we don’t really know what they want or why they do what they do.
In the end, The Glittering World is a superficial tale and if you don’t like fairies, you probably won’t get a whole lot out of it. ®
Title The Glittering World
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Release date 12 February (UK) / 10 February (US)
Price £16.99 (Hardback) / £8.03 (Ebook)
More info Author’s web site