Reviewed by Kayla Dean
ISBN: 0062187414 (Paperback)
Harper Teen — 463 pages. Ebook also available.
When fairies and humans come together, things can get tricky. But when they fall in love? Boundaries are crossed and life gets even more complicated for everyone involved. This is exactly the case for the main characters of Ryan Graudin’s All That Glows, a fairy romance rich in urban lore.
Once upon a time, the Fairy Court worked alongside King Arthur, and their leader swore an oath to protect the English Crown from all supernatural forces. What they got in return were magical powers which made the immortal Fae even more invincible. Fae inhabit human bodies, but they are also shapeshifters, magic users, and invisible to humans. Fae are made up of elemental force, destined to live forever.
Emrys, a centuries-old Fae, loves the Highlands of England where the fairy court dwells, far from technology and the strain of pollution. When Emrys is once again asked to rejoin the Faery Guard, she has to take on one of her greatest challenges: guarding the Prince of England.
Prince Richard is known for his bad boy ways: he parties too much, comes home in the middle of the night hung over, and almost never does what he’s told. When he graduates from Eton, he knows that the time for him to be King is drawing closer, but all he wants to do is ignore all the rules. His parents and sister are fed up with his partying, and want him to focus on his duties, but it’s much easier for him to block out what makes him afraid.
It isn’t long after meeting Richard that Emrys wants to know him as more than his invisible guard. Humans don’t know that Fae exist. The Fae must veil themselves at all times while they guard their humans from Green Women, Banshees, and Black Dogs: all things that Emrys has seen before on the ancient moors of England. But a sinister spirit is after the monarchy. The Fae think it is an ancient one who craves the magical blood of England’s royalty, and wants to break down the barriers between the Fae and their beloved London.
Emrys and Richard quickly form a bond over their mutual rejection of responsibility and fear of the future. Before long, they start to go everywhere together, flying high over the city in The London Eye and taking in the world from the banks of the Thames. Emrys and Richard go from the seedy bars on the sketchy end of town to the polo matches of the rich and famous. But Richard can’t escape the paparazzi and the pressure of the Crown looming over his head. Emrys can’t get away from her fellow Fae and the responsibility to act as a leader over her younger peers crushes her. The worst thing is that every day she spends with Richard, Emrys falls hopelessly in love with him. There’s just one problem: if she falls for a human, shell have to give up her immortality and her powers forever. But if Richard feels he can’t love her forever, Emrys can’t promise her heart to the young, handsome prince.
Graudin’s writing is heavy with descriptors. We have a distinct view of London and the environs that the characters experience through the writer’s descriptions of the city. We see through Emrys eyes the contrast between the green countryside of England and London, which has its own nods to the past, even as it is propelling towards the future. The pages of the book are also filled with long-winded similes that give a little too much weight to descriptions that occasionally slow down the narrative. There were moments that could have moved along more swiftly.
I did really like the dynamic between Emrys and Richard. I almost got the sense that they fell for each other over their mutual love of England. One of the most endearing parts of the book is when the two of them dance to records together in Richard’s room. The gesture was simple, but this scene showed us that Richard is more than a partier: he is a good guy who loves his family and wants the best for his country. Which brings me to my next point: Richard’s role as a bad boy was a little half-hearted. At the beginning, we are made to think of him as a bad boy, but we never really get the sense that Richard is as bad as people say he is. We see girls fawning over him, but dent meet heartbroken exes. We see that he drinks way more than he should, but not how it alters his behavior. We see him run from his responsibilities, but he never does anything that a normal teenager would not do.
Richard is a good guy, but he isn’t a bad boy. Before he even knows Emrys, he defends her from a manipulative man. Later on, he gives her a cute nickname, Embers. Richard is really more of a misguided future leader who doesn’t want to accept his place as a royal. But his love for Emrys makes him a better man. The only thing that was not clear to me is why Emrys fell for Richard in the first place. We are made to believe that Emrys is tired of all the rules that tie her in to being a fairy. It turns out that even an immortal fairy is not immune to the gaze of a handsome prince. And even if she gives up one claim to royalty, she may soon gain another crown.
As for whether I’d recommend the book, I think there are other reads that could better occupy reader’s time. What bothered me most about the story was that the characters just weren’t all that distinctive. As mentioned earlier, Richard is described as a bad boy, but except for a few drinking stints, we never see the true extent of his behavior. I didn’t really get the sense that it was difficult for Emrys to change him. Plus, the love story didn’t make me feel anything. I didn’t really care that much if these two ended up together.
For being as old as she is, Emrys sure acts like a teenage girl. The plot wavers between mushy love story and fairy adventure, and it didn’t toe the line effectively. If you like Marissa Marr or Aprilynn Pike, and have a bent for fairy novels, this book might be worth a try, but otherwise, move right along your to-read list to the next book you’ve been eagerly anticipating.