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Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories) Hardcover – April 29, 2014
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If Jane Austen were to write about a magical heist, her novel would not be all that different from the fourth installment in Kowal’s (Without a Summer, 2013) Glamour History series. Jane and Vincent travel to Murano, an island off of Venice, to study glassblowing in hopes of amalgamating it with glamour (magic). Though clever, they fall victim to an elaborate hoax that consumes their funds and leaves them stranded in Italy. Living in poverty, they team up with Catholic nuns and a street puppeteer to enact retribution. Adventures, obstacles, and high jinks propel the story while upholding its romantic core. Jane and Vincent’s healthy, steadfast marriage makes sense in the Regency era yet satisfies modern standards, even when their quips and stubbornness create problems instead of solutions. The act of weaving glamour into art or apparatuses makes for entrancing imagery, complementing Kowal’s Victorian writing style and enhancing the action-packed scenes. Lively, well written, and with sprinkles of history, Valour and Vanity will charm both adventurers and romantics. Add Lord Byron as cohort for extra fun. --Biz Hyzy
"Combining history, magic and adventure, the book balances emotional depth with buoyant storytelling."―Kirkus Reviews
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Top Customer Reviews
We get to see much more of Jane's and Vincent's relationship, and how they are learning to work together and rely on each other, albeit through struggles both within the relationship and caused by outside forces. Fot this reason, it seemed more intimate to me than the previous novels in the series, much as I loved them.
Also, the plot is more obviously exciting! Pirates! Swindles! Reversals of fortune! Revenge! Secret motivations and spying! and even Lord Byron! Kowal did a brilliant job of winding the very personal and intimate into the more carefully convoluted and eventful plot, with each reflecting on the other in many ways. Wonderfully wrought!
The other characters come alive, too, both the Good Guys and the not. I especially loved the portrayals of the nuns. Having attended a Catholic women's college, I learned great respect and admiration for nuns, and these are GREAT nuns, each very distinct.
I also appreciated that the glamour- the magic- was described more precisely, giving me a better idea of what it can and cannot do.
This was an excellent novel that kept me up a few times reading when I ought to have been asleep- and that's rare for me these days.
Highly recommended, for a perspective on the Regency era and for those who would love a very unique magical system in fantasy, or who have been reading the series. I think this one is my favorite in it thus far.
What most impressed me in this book was how Kowal managed to balance the intrigue and suspense of a heist story with the unsettlingly intimate and personal portrayal of a marriage in an all-too-common crisis. I suspect I am not the only wife to feel that I've had the exact same argument as the Vincents, almost word for word. Had that struggle made up the majority of the novel, it would have been too heavy-handed, but when interwoven with the mystery and action of a pirate attack, spy activities, and a quest for revenge, it makes for an exciting and compelling novel.
In short, each Glamourist book has been markedly better than the last, so I can't wait for the final installment!
It was interesting to see a Venice and Murano, post-Napoleon. Seeing how hard hit the glass-making business was was fascinating, given the amount of taxes France levied on materials for the industry and how that effected the artisans involved. I also liked the sympathetic light the author gave to the Catholic Church, especially given some of the attitudes Jane portrayed in the previous book. I liked seeing her eyes open to the good in that organization.
The overall plot of betrayal and shifting friendship alliances was interesting. I loved how nobody was really as they seemed and seeing different allies that Vincent and Jane gathered around themselves. Yet, for all the good in the engrossing plot, there were times where it seemed almost a bit hackneyed. The whole rouse part seemed overdone a bit, unbelievable overall. I rolled my eyes more than once as Jane and Vincent blundered through their struggle to regain their life savings. And the ending almost seemed to pat as well.
Not a bad addition to the series. I loved Jane and Vincent again, like always. I think they’ve never been stronger than in this volume. I liked the historical tidbits and seeing a bit more of glamour. The plot was good but it stretched the bounds of believability and so being enjoyable at times. I’m definitely look forward to the final volume that comes out this week. I already have it on pre-order.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The whole of the book seemed to be one drawn out painful struggle.Read more
The short description of this novel is rather misleading. "Like Jane Austen wrote Ocean's Eleven.Read more