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Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories Book 1) by [Kowal, Mary Robinette]
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Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories Book 1) Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 194 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in Glamourist Histories (4 Book Series)
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Length: 305 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Take Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and add a dash of magic and you have this delightful story by Mary Kowal. This is the story of two sisters, Jane, who is more magically talented, and Melody, a stunning beauty, and their quest to find love and stability. Both girls hope to marry well despite their lack of inheritance, and are pursued by various suitors. They are quickly embroiled into the intricacies of their neighbors’ lives, and the resulting series of events is sure to entrance the reader. For those who love reading Jane Austen’s books, this will at least temporarily satisfy the craving. A touch of magic inserted into the story is enough to enhance, but not overwhelm the story line. A quick, light read, with characters that the reader will feel right at home with. --Rebecca Gerber

Product Details

  • File Size: 554 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Publication Date: August 3, 2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003P2WO2M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,012 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would give the book 3.5 stars. But I can see where some would rate it higher.
Premise is excellent.
Easy read - but then as I note below - I found that distracting.
Characters - most needed more development
Plot - pleasant
The premise of the novel is marvelous. Take a regency England family, and make magic (called glamour) an accomplishment pursued by the ton women. I think I may have come to the book with a high expectation. I love Austen and I love Georgette Heyer. I was unconsciously setting the bar pretty high.

From my view point, a book like this should be written with more intricate prose. Kowal wrote her book, the way the vast majority of books are written today - for the 8th grade reading level. (Its not a YA novel, its just short sentences, easy repeatable words) Frankly, she probably couldn't have sold the book if she had written it with complex sentences that go on for a paragraph. But to me that is what the era calls for. That is what evokes that air of sophisticated snobbery, the elitist condescension,and the beautiful culture.

I longed for more detailed history, a more in depth characterization, a reason to like Melody - the beautiful sister, a better and more entertaining character study of the mother.

None of the characters are particularly original, but I don't demand that. I just demand that I get to know them and not end up defining them off characters in other novels to which they are similar.

Kowal's description of glamour is wonderful. Her description of its creation and the finished illusions make you long to see it in person. And she did a nice job of creating & building interest in the mysterious and scowling Mr. Vincent.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I first read Shades of Milk and Honey, I found it underwhelming. However, since the magic premise was interesting, I decided to continue with the series in the hope that it would improve. Thankfully, that gamble paid off, because each successive book is leaps and bounds better than the last. However, the stronger books make this one seem even weaker by comparison.

[MILD SPOILER WARNING] To isolate my primary complaint with Shades, it would have to be the decoy love interest. It was obvious from the first few pages that this guy (he made so little impression that I can't even remember his name) was not the man for Jane, so it made the bulk of the novel incredibly tedious, as the reader has to sit through scene after scene of empty flirtation and angsty internal monologues to get to the horribly-cliched conclusion. Worst of all, this obsession with a vapid man and the constant "woe is me, I'm so ugly" reflections made me really dislike Jane.

Fortunately, Glamour in Glass is slightly better, Without a Summer is better still, and I just finished Valour and Vanity, which was AWESOME. Read this quick little novel for an introduction to the magic system, but keep your expectations low, for starters. The real fun comes in the sequels!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've had my eye on this book for nearly a year - since Dragon*Con last September, where this book was promoted in the Steampunk track with swag sandalwood fans. Regency-period Britain with magical glamour wrinkle (but not the full-blown steampunk feel) seemed like just the thing. I hesitated, though, because the Kindle price of the book was $12 - much higher than the bargain priced hardbacks, and still higher than the price of the paperback coming out later this year. I've read plenty on the economics of Kindle pricing, but I still can't understand how publishers justify their price point. I suppose I fed into it, since I bought the kindle version myself...

What's Good: The book has exactly what it promises: romance, glamor, Austenian sensibilities, jealous sisters, gambling cads, and a clever female protagonist. The author handles glamour well - it's not quite a "system" like Sanderson's various magics, but clearly Kowal has thought it through, and is able to describe in a comprehensible way how the women interact with the ether, and what it takes from them to employ glamour.

What's Bad: Aside from the price tag (and I'd be surprised if the price tag wasn't a significant "bad" for many prospective readers), there's nothing new here beside the wrinkle of glamour. Down to the name and description of the protagonist, (plain) Jane, everything seems to be derivative of Austen, but without the masterful insight into human emotion. Surely the glamour is newish (and enough to make me want to read the story), but even while it's integral to the plot, glamour doesn't seem to have affected the world in any way enough to make it more than a novelty or window dressing.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked this up on a recommendation from one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy sites. I have to agree with the reviewer who gave it one star: the characters are bland at best, one dimensional stereotypes at worst. I was hoping for some real character growth, or to show more to the characters personalities as the story went on. There was very little, and what little there was was painfully predictable. That's the problem with this novel: its TOO predictable. You've seen all the characters and plot before, and even the addition of magic adds little to make it much different.

The novel is slowly paced, and I felt like I was waiting for something to happen. Austen could be accused of this, but her writing was witty enough to carry it. There are some interesting ideas, but nothing that really gripped me or made me excited for the climax. I didn't love the novel, but I didn't hate it either. It's a decent read, but easily forgettable. Wait for the paperback edition, or if its on sale to get it.
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