Review: Shades of Milk and Honey (Shades of Milk and Honey #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Woven intricately out of the ether, Mary Robinette Kowal creates and exhilarating new world of enchantment that will please Jane Austen fans and illusionist fiction fans alike.

In the Regency era, Dorchester countryside, Jane and Melody Ellsworth are as opposite as any two sisters can be.

While Melody is beautiful and charming, Jane is plain and lacks the feminine charms to secure a husband.

Almost a confirmed spinster, Jane possesses other talents that might make her appealing to the right man…..she is a glamourist.

Well accomplished in the art of glamour, Jane captures the imagination of all that she meets….wow people with her skills, but it is Melody the eligible bachelors are fixated on.

Melody is jealous of her older sister, not because of her beauty, but because Jane’s glamours are elegant and entrancing….Melody is limited in her knowledge of glamour. Nothing to rival her sisters talents.

Determined to prove her superior assets as a bride, Melody sets out to secure a husband. Content to easily fall into the role of chaperon, Jane lands in the middle of her own courtship.

What follows is a charming romance that Jane Austen herself would be proud of….with the added delicate hints of magic, you have a delightful, intoxicating read.

It was nice to read a fantasy novel where the heroine or hero doesn’t save the world! I welcomed the simple plot and familiar landscape of the Regency era. One of the things that  I liked best about this novel was the familiar mixture of Austen heroines. Reading Jane was like reading Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, and Anne Elliot all at the same time!

Jane was the ‘mother hen’ of sorts like Elinor and strong and independent like Elizabeth, and the brooding romantic like Anne. I could identify with many aspects of Jane’s character which was exciting as a reader.

While this book has distinct Austen-ish themes, plot, and characters it is NOT an Austen spinoff. I initially thought the glamour element sounded a little out of place for a novel such as this but it wasn’t.

I liked that the magic and fantasy elements don’t over power the book. Often in fantasy lit the fantastic elements take over the plot, in this it is still about the characters with the magic acting as more of an enhancing element.

In other illusionist fiction that I have read such as The Night Circus, magic and glamour take center stage in the plot. This plot was truly more about sibling rivalry, friendship, and finding true love….it just so happens that the characters make art out of glamours.

The only thing that kept me from giving this book a higher rating was the plot predictability and Jane’s happily ever after (HEA). The plot was almost a little too much like an Austen novel. I would have liked to see a little divergence in the plot line besides the magic elements.

While I enjoyed the similarities and the simplistic nature of the conflicts/problems in the story, it was hard to not continue drawing comparisons from Austen’s original works. Again this book isn’t an Austen reworking, but the influence is glaringly apparent.

I also felt there was a lot of energy put into one aspect of Jane’s love story only to have the resolution directed elsewhere, I guess I just saw something else in store for Jane’s HEA.

This book is written with a delicate hand, the prose is not as sweeping and elegant as other illusionist/magic books that I have read (The Night Circus or the like), but this book has an enchanting charisma all its own.

If you are looking for a new unique take on old classic romance plots….then look no further. Let Kowal’s glamour work it’s magic on you and weave an illusion from the ether that surrounds us all…the pursuit of love.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Shades of Milk and Honey (Shades of Milk and Honey #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal 

  • Paperback, 304 pages
  • Published June 7th 2011 by Tom Doherty Associates (first published July 26th 2010)
  • ISBN 0765325608 (ISBN13: 9780765325600)

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (a delectable treat for Austen enthusiasts)

Genre: Fantasy, Historic Fiction, Romance

Memorable lines/quotes:

One must not put trust in novelists…they create worlds to fit their own needs and drive their characters mad in doing it (121)
Without passion there is no art, only technique (192)

3 thoughts on “Review: Shades of Milk and Honey (Shades of Milk and Honey #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

    1. Yes I was a little hesitant too since it’s not a combo that I would ever think putting together but it totally worked in the book and I really enjoyed it! Cliche but still a solid fun read 🙂

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