Fantasy / New to Me Author / Part of a Series

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

milk and honeyI don’t have too much to say about this book, except that it was a fun read. It’s a clever combination of fantasy meets Jane Austen.

Now, I’m not a big fan of reading books that are takeoffs on Jane Austen’s novels (but if you are, see this recent post in The AV Club.) But considering how few Austen novels we have (seven, and I’ve now read every one), I can see why there’s such a clamor for more like them.  I liked that this series is modeled on Austen’s style and setting, rather than actually using her characters.

This book reminded me most of Sense and Sensibility, in that you have a smart, respectable, practical older sister (Jane) and a rather selfish younger sister (Melody) (although Marianne is much more sympathetic than Melody). But it will remind you of the other Austen novels as well. The big difference is that this book is set in a world where people practice the art of glamour, which has something to do with creating magical folds in the air to create illusions or art.

Jane is in love with Mr. Dunkirk, but much too reserved to say so, especially when she thinks Melody might be interested in the same man. Melody is a beauty while Jane is smart and talented. Mr. Dunkirk’s young sister, Beth, comes to stay with him, and Jane undertakes to teach her about glamour.

Like an Austen novel, there isn’t a lot that happens in this novel. It’s a series of balls and picnics and encounters in hat shops — in other words it’s more polite conversation than action —  but I’m assuming if you like Austen that’s fine with you.

I liked reading about glamour although at times it was more detailed than I needed.  But as a fantasy novel, glamour is a nice change of pace from magic used for violence and destruction.

This was a light read but I enjoyed it more than I expected. I’ve heard great things about Kowal (notably from science fiction author John Scalzi) and look forward to her other books.

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