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Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories) Paperback – June 7, 2011
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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.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
[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!
Again, I enjoyed this story, and read it in almost one sitting. The magic system was interesting and unique. It just needed another 100 pages to flesh out the characters, give Jane some time to grow as a person, and make a more convincing romance.
The only things I found could use improvement are matters of personal preference, minor quibbles. A couple events were not so much foreshadowed as they were blatantly obvious, the occasional slips of language (it is tough to keep momentum when writing in an older dialect), and what seemed to be a bit of a contrived ending (I was disappointed in Vincent's real identity) but none of that seriously overshadowed what, to me, was Well written and enjoyable novel. I look forward to reading the sequels.
[SPOILER POSSIBLE BELOW]
As another reviewer has mentioned, I have no idea why Melody was portrayed as likable despite her shortcomings and selfishness displayed throughout the entire volume. Jane's relationship with Beth was never touched upon at the end of the book, which was a shame. The resolution just seemed so hurried, which made the entire cast feel unfleshed out and one-dimensional. I can't shake off the feeling that I'm reading a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies equivalent, minus the excellent writing of Ms. Austen. Perhaps most like reading an amateur fanfiction attempt (and I have read _plenty_ of excellent fanfiction to know that's not always amateurish).
I hope the future volumes are much better, but I'm not sure I'm willing to spend the money to find out.