Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Publisher: Tor

Where did you get this book from: ARC from Publisher

Release date: Out now

This review contains some minor spoilers.

Blurb taken from author’s official website:

…Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

When I received this book for review and saw the very intriguing title, I didn’t know what I was going to expect. Then I read the blurb, and there I was, immersing myself into this romantic fantasy tale.

Jane’s world is full of glamour that is created by threads and folds that come from the Ether. And ladies are expected to be accomplished at glamour. Glamour is an illusion that can be used on anyone and on anything: a person, a house, on a landscape and even used while playing a piano, it can even be used to create things. But it takes a toll on the person manipulating the glamour, and our heroine Jane is very accomplished in the glamour arts; she is considered to be the best in her neighbourhood.

But while Jane is astutely accomplished in the arts, she is considered to be plain of face while her younger sister, Melody, is the beauty of the family. Melody attracts the attention of suitable beaus, while Jane is considered to be the wallflower. While Jane is most sensible, and very calm, she becomes jealous of Melody who becomes enamoured of Mr Dunkirk, a man and neighbour whom Jane has deep feelings for. But Jane’s world of glamour becomes very exciting when Mr Vincent arrives on the scene. Mr Vincent is considered to be thee best glamour/illusionist in the country. And when Jane sees his work at a party, she is spellbound by what she sees. From there, Jane’s calm and not so content world is rocked with secrets that can cause scandals, and she has to endure the grumpy, but oh so fantastic Mr Vincent.

I found Shades of Milk and Honey to be the utmost charming read that features the touch of magic and the fantastical. While in some ways this is an adaptation, in other ways, it’s completely different.

Jane was a great heroine: smart, witty, and most importantly, she wasn’t the perfect, quiet, and meek heroine who didn’t let petty feelings get the better of her. She felt jealousy, she felt sorry for herself, and she expressed anger at her sister. And she wasn’t above letting her sister know those feelings. Jane also didn’t hide away her talent of glamour.  While I enjoyed reading about  glamour and what you could accomplish with it, I did wish it was explained in more detail. The background story of the Ether is not explored, there aren’t any explanations on how it came to be, who discovered it, and how did a person simply reach out into the Ether and manipulate the folds? But despite this, it didn’t distract me from the enjoyment of the book.

Jane’s relationship with Mr Vincent was very slow, but it’s not lacking in the least.  It stuck to the conventions of what was proper in those days (at least I think it did). It was like Lizzie’s and Mr Darcy’s courtship from P&P, but Jane wasn’t as mean as Lizzie :D. So there’s not much to say on the romance side because declarations of love didn’t come until the end of the book, but Jane’s and Mr Vincent’s interactions were like special occasions that I eagerly looked forward to.  And there’s an important and quite lovely scene in which Mr Vincent gives Jane a gift that was the changing point for their relationship.

This book has a little of everything: romance, magic, fantasy, and some action towards the end which revealed true personalities of characters – especially Melody who had insecurities of her own. Jane’s relationship with her sister was not easy, and both women craved what each other had. And even though Melody did come across as selfish and immature, she wasn’t all bad, even though what she came out with made her seem that way.

I wouldn’t hesitate in book pushing this book onto others, and I can’t wait to see if Mary Robinette Kowal will be writing any more books set in the world of Shades of Milk and Honey.

I give Shades of Milk and Honey 5 stars.

And here’s a very cool, and quite unusual trailer for Shades of Milk and Honey, featuring a style of Puppetry called Shadow Masks. The trailer  is featured over at Mary Robinette Kowal’s website.

Comments

  1. Lou says

    @ Fiction Vixen

    I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m not a huge fan of adaptations. While the romance is slow – and very tame – it suits the style and tone of the book. All of the elements in the book make it a great read. Well, I think so LOL.

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