Glitterland by Alexis Hall (Spires Universe #1)

Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter throws him into the path of Essex-born Darian Taylor. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety. But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Nicholas Boulton (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Dreamscape Media
YEAR: 2013
LENGTH: 248 pages (9 hours 5 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Contemporary, Romance

Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Main Character(s).

Ash Winters is frequently a mess and thinks he's unlovable. With his bipolar disorder driving a mix of depression and anxiety, he's given up on actually feeling emotions and being interested in anyone longer than a one-night stand. Some guy from Essex was supposed to be such a one-night stand, it wasn't supposed to matter that he has a name (Darian), or that he is annoyingly upbeat, or that he's from Essex, because it was supposed to be over. But it's not. Ash runs into Darian again and wants that spark of some emotion again, because he's pretty sure it was a good emotion.

Ash and Darian genuinely work well together, I love how their relationship develops. Ash is just as much of an asshole by the end of the book as the start, but he's more sure of himself and more willing to take risks for Darian than it seems like he was for his other friends. Due to his high anxiety, "taking risks" includes, in this case, going to the store, spending the night in the same bed, and being emotionally vulnerable. Neither of them are people it's necessarily easy to be around (Ash moreso than Darian), and that shows up in many different ways.

The ending caught me off guard, especially the incident which precedes it. I was pleasantly surprised by how things end up, but the story lingers in an uncomfortable situation for far longer than I can normally handle reading. Part of what helped is the way the narrative had handled anxiety and tension up until that point, I had built up enough trust in the author that I was able to wait for how things shook out.

If you like this you may like:

  • A CASE OF MADNESS by Yvonne Knop (mental illness, romance)

Graphic/Explicit CW for sexual content, ableism, panic attacks, classism, mental illness, toxic friendship.

Moderate CW for grief, fatphobia, abandonment, forced institutionalization, toxic relationship, infidelity, biphobia, drug use, alcohol, injury detail, suicidal thoughts.

Minor CW for medical content, medical trauma, suicide, suicide attempt, parental death, death.

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Two men embracing, one is in front of a sea of blue glitter, the other is backed by a stark white emptiness


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