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Review – Shades of Milk and Honey May 9, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy.
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Title:  Shades of Milk and Honey

Author:  Mary Robinette Kowal

Genre: Fantasy/Regency/Romance

Publisher:  Tor Books

Publish Date:  August 3, 2010 (1st Edition)

Available at:  AmazonBarnes and Noble

In Kowal’s quasi-Regency fantasy debut, plain Miss Jane Ellsworth envies her sister’s looks, while flighty Melody envies Jane’s talent with magical glamour. Rude, mysterious Mr. Vincent, a brilliant glamour artist hired to create living murals in a nearby mansion, shows little interest in the niceties of society, and none (it seems) in Jane. As Jane shyly seeks Mr. Vincent’s tutelage and approval, Melody pursues a disastrous romance. A sprinkling of Jane Austen’s idiosyncratic spellings (shew, teaze, etc.) doesn’t hide the lack of her trenchant wit or distinctive characters, and period errors abound. Despite the tremendous potential in the magical manipulation of light and temperature, glamour is used solely for decoration and entertainment, with implausibly little effect on history or culture. The story plods at a wooden pace until the climax, which achieves a sprightly comedy-of-errors froth.

One satisfying part of the book was that I was left guessing who Jane was going to marry. Another satisfying part of the book was Jane’s wit and intelligence. She was no simpering maiden. Her distinctive personality was a delight for me.

The relationships she had between such people as her sister and her neighbor, Mr. Dunkirk’s sister Beth, showed a sensitivity that was admirable. To be sure she was only human and she had her moments of pettiness, but they were few and far between. Her good nature and the way she undervalued herself over others made me feel for her.

That’s not to say she was a wallflower. She had a forthright character with forceful opinions that she wasn’t afraid to put out. I applauded her when she put certain buffoons in their place.

Unlike certain Regency novels, this one wasn’t colorless and muted. This novel had a vibrancy that I appreciated. The glamour used by Jane and the other characters added to the appeal of the book. It was a novel way to further animate the book.

I was delighted to find out that book two was out and I immediately started in on it. The review of that book will soon follow.

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