One summer—maybe this one—four people leave New York City for Nova Scotia: Michael “Blue” Whitley, a restauranteur heavily in debt to the mob; Elisa, his best friend; Jason Howard, her husband, a former broker, now a therapist; and Gabriel Peck, Blue’s co-worker and current love interest. Blue is returning to Starling Cove, site of a former hippie commune and where he spent his early childhood, which he barely remembers, to sell the house he inherited from his grandmother; the others join him for a week of vacation.
Their visit soon becomes anything but relaxing. Starling Cove is full of secrets, and while Blue may not remember his prior time there, he is still remembered by some of the older residents that have remained. Gradually, memories from Blue’s past return to his consciousness, including the time, when he was a child of five, that he went missing for weeks in the woods. And then he goes missing again—but this time Elisa disappears as well.
As Jason and Gabe struggle to locate Blue and Elisa, they simultaneously must grapple with the mystery of Blue’s first disappearance. By turns they are aided and/or hindered by the inhabitants of Starling Cove, who distrust outsiders with their secrets—or are disbelieved by the rational Jason when they do open up. For, if the old-time residents of the Cove are to be believed, Blue and Elisa have been Taken by the Other Kind, for purposes that are far from benign.
Complicating this mystery are all the secrets that the four newcomers are keeping from each other. While Blue is forced to confront secrets about his blood family, his family of choice—Elisa, Jason, and Gabe—must each confront their own broken family histories. Jason especially is forced to confront the truth of Elisa’s relationship with Blue, a relationship that, because of its long history, he can never fully supplant. The theme of families we are born into versus the families we create will resonate with many GLBT readers, but not content to leave it at that, Levy complicates this theme: the protagonists often feel alienation from both their blood families and their families of choice. Finding one’s “true” family—be it by blood, marriage, or choice—is no guarantee of acceptance.
Slowly the mystery and horror unfold, as each of the four protagonists provides their own history to the overall narrative. Part mystery, part dark fantasy, and mostly pschological thriller, The Glittering World is a terrifying debut by Robert Levy, who takes everything you think you know about the Fae, the Other Kind, the “People of Peace,” and changelings, and Cranks It Up To Eleven. These Sidhe are not some playfully mischevious, amoral, decadent, UnSeelie Court who amuse themselves by toying with humans; they are fully and truly alien, in every sense of the word. You have been warned.
Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske