Monday, August 16, 2010

What Does A POD Peep Read - Chris Gerrib

Title: Shades of Milk and Honey
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Genre: fantasy
Price: $24.95
Publisher: Tor
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2556-3
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Mary Robinette Kowal is a friend of mine and a fan of Jane Austen. Although I’m not a Jane Austen fan, I am a fan of Mary’s writing, so I purchased a copy of her debut novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, at the release party. (A party that the authoress attended in Regency attire, with period refreshments.) I read it on the flight home, and found it a wonderful novel, and well worth my money.

Shades has been billed as “Jane Austen with magic,” which is an accurate description. The problem with introducing magic into Regency England is that, without care, one can break that which makes Regency romances appealing. Here Mary works carefully, describing her magical system as “glamour” – something that provides illusions without changing reality. The magical system of Shades is discussed in terms of fabric – folds of glamour are weaved and manipulated like one would a fabric. This allows women to become practitioners of magic.

The story is primarily about Jane and Melody Ellsworth, the two daughters of Charles Ellsworth, a second son who will not pass his estate on. Thus, like in any Austen novel, the goal is to marry off the sisters. Jane is plain while her younger sister Melody is a raving beauty, which leads to both conflict and the suspicion that Melody will marry well and Jane will not at all. You probably see where this is heading, but the fun of this delightful book is getting there.

Shades is also fun in other ways. A surprising number of Mary’s friends make appearances in the book, appearing as characters great and small. In Chapter 4 (Act 1, if you will) a gun appears on a mantelpiece. In Chapter 25, (Act 3, if you will) the gun goes off. (Mr. Chekhov, please pick up the white courtesy telephone. Mr. Chekhov…) In short, Shades of Milk and Honey is a serious book, but not too serious. It’s a wonderful read, and I’m already looking forward to the sequel, Glamour and Glass.

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