Robert Levy’s debut novel is a difficult one to classify. Billed by the publisher as a supernatural thriller (which it unequivocally is), it also sporadically plunges headlong into contemporary fantasy, mystery, fairy tale, and what could be described as rural noir. There’s much going on here, but it works, and at its core The Glittering World is really a love story that’s fantastic in every sense of the word.
Michael Whitley (also known as Blue) and three close friends have left New York to go and settle some of Michael’s late grandmother’s affairs in Starling Cove, a small community in Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s the first time Michael’s been to Starling Cove since his mother fled there with him when he was a child. His memories of the place and its strange denizens are tenuous, but soon begin to return unbidden. As this happens, against his better judgment and the counsel of others, he’s drawn with an almost magnetic propulsion to the nearby woods, which hold secrets of their own.
Complicating things further is the magnetic pull Michael himself seems to have on his longtime friend Elisa, and Gabe, the young man enamored with and devoted to Michael. Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason, Elisa’s husband. As much as this may sound like a typical love triangle (or square) shoehorned in, it’s anything but. The attraction and relationships between the characters are part of the backbone of the plot and integral to the story’s supernatural aspects.
The main characters are impeccably drawn and very much likable, flaws and all. Each of the book’s four sections is written from a different perspective, and each character has a distinctive voice that moves the plot quickly along while deepening and slowly unraveling its mysteries and unexpected twists.
The story goes to some very dark places, both fantastical and of a more realistic variety. The creatures inhabiting the woods and the ground beneath are at once beautiful and terrifying, familiar and alien, but the Starling Cove locals have some monstrous aspects in their own shared history. There’s a heavy emphasis on the bonds of family in its many forms, and even the human element here is imbued with a palpable sense of magic.
The inviting cadence of the prose makes many of the sentences a pleasure to read in themselves. This, along with Levy’s attention to character and the magical within the mundane, makes for a book that’s hard to put down. More than the sum of its parts, The Glittering World is one of those all-too-rare books that’s compelling on so many levels you’re not likely to want to put it down until it’s finished anyway. Recommended.