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Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette…

Shades of Milk and Honey (edition 2010)

by Mary Robinette Kowal

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1,027958,252 (3.51)110
Title:Shades of Milk and Honey
Authors:Mary Robinette Kowal
Info:Tor Books (2010), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Library Loans, Read but unowned, Wishlist, Favorites
Tags:fiction, library, ILL, DLR, borrowbooks, fantasy, regency, illusion, glamour, romance, 2013, january

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Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal


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Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
With a writing style that echos Jane Austen, and storylines that seem familiar but with a twist of magic, Ms. Kowal creates a lovely story with that most famous of conflicts: the getting and keeping of an eligible man! Lots of fun to read. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Nov 16, 2016 |
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would; I wasn't sure what I'd think about it. I have heard of it as a cross between [b: Sense and Sensibility|14935|Sense and Sensibility|Jane Austen|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1397245675s/14935.jpg|2809709] and [b: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone|3|Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)|J.K. Rowling|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1361572757s/3.jpg|4640799] or [b: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell|14201|Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|Susanna Clarke|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1450962900s/14201.jpg|3921305], which I think is as good an explanation as any to give people some bearing for this book. Having said that, read the Grinch's review because she makes some good points.

This first book is setting up the series and the universe of the Glamourist Histories. However, when I was reading the book, I thought I was reading a retread of Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. Regency England? Check. Sisters who must at all costs find a husband? Check. One beautiful sister, one "old maid"? Check. There's even a dance at this book's Netherfield; a young woman in the neighborhood with a questionable past; and a dashing yet dastardly man who fools everyone. There was little that was unique in this book save the use of "glamour", a sort of magic that exists in this alternative universe (more on that in a moment). The constant--and I'm not kidding, it did feel constant--remarking upon how Jane was so plain, how she had no marriage prospects, how her nose was too large or something else was wrong with her was needlessly excessive. I'm not exactly sure why it was required to beat readers over the head with just how homely and undesirable Jane is, because I'm not convinced the story was made stronger or took different meaning from it. Had the characters been younger, it could have been the same story of two sisters who are very different and perhaps a bit competitive; there was nothing in particular in this story that required Jane to be older, nor for there to be an age gap between the sisters.

As I said, I enjoyed it quite a lot for some reason, but there were some real problems. Most obvious, the introduction of glamour as a thing that exists in this history. I'm really perplexed as to why the author provides absolutely no context or explanation for glamour--what it is, what it does, if it has always been a part of human history or was a recent discovery of sorts, etc. It appears almost exclusively ornamental, though in later books it is suggested there can be *some* utility to it. But the author uses all these terms--"folds", "ether", "threads", "tie off", and "glamour" itself amongst possible others--with no context or definition of what they mean. Why is glamour considered a woman's art? Why does working with glamour make people tired/sick/die if used in excess? On that point, why bother doing anything with glamour if it can make you sick or whatnot? Why not just paint? All throughout the book I was reading about people peering into the ether or grasping a thread of glamour, but I have no frame of reference for these actions. To be quite honest, I kind of skipped through some of the parts of the book that discussed glamour, glamour terms, or the mechanics of glamour because I could not understand it. The only thing I can picture about glamour is that it makes something look like something else (because I've seen The Craft), or might appear like moving wallpaper or something. As I write this review, I'm almost done with the third book in the series and I still kind of skip the glamour parts because I can't make sense of it.

The author does seem to have recognized that she made a major misstep in not providing any context or information about glamour, instead expecting that her readers would of course know and could imagine this entirely fictitious world and its magical properties. In the second and third books, at least, there's a bit of a glossary of terms to help one understand all these new words and concepts associated with glamour. I'm truly not sure how what seems to me to be a most basic of tenet of writing--making sure your audience can understand you--was missed by the author, her editor(s), and any friends and family who had the opportunity to read the book prior to its publication. If all these people understood the book without aid of the author's detailed explanation and no other aids or references, I'm not sure if maybe they perhaps live in this alternate universe so this is all old hat to them. In general I am no fan of exposition, but this introduction to the world in which the Ellsworth family exist is one of the rare cases where it is not only necessary, but would be welcome.

As I said earlier, this book happens feels like an almost plot point for point rewrite of Jane Austen, so I wonder if it started as fanfiction. Regardless, as I have also stated multiple times, I did find the book enjoyable and am interested enough in continuing to be part of this world that I will continue through the rest of the series. However, be prepared to experience some frustration at the familiarity of the story and the author's implication that her readers should already be well-versed in this make-believe magic that she introduces as though it is commonplace. ( )
  AeshaMali | Sep 17, 2016 |
Liked the writing style and the PNR aspects. The way the author blended them together was unlike anything I've read in terms of style. That being said, the characters gave me problems. Jane seemed a but dense when it came to her sister (from her feelings towards her to her relationship). Vincent was a nonentity almost. A lot more time was spent portraying Dunkirk, who was not the hero. Vincent was given a couple of scenes where some of the interaction is glossed over, and we are expected to think that Jane knows more of him than we do. I was very interested in reading the other books of the series as they continue following Jane and Vincent, but after the rushed ending I am feeling less interested. Might try #2 and just see how it goes, but not sure what it could be about at this point... ( )
  GoldenDarter | Sep 15, 2016 |
An interesting romance story in classic Jane Austen style with magical elements to spice it up. The story itself isn't too original, but the fantasy elements create an additional flair to the romance story. The fantasy parts are also not too overwhelming, and more so an extra part to the story. The romance is tasteful and focuses on beauty isn't everything. The writing is really well done that makes it feel like a classic book. The audiobook is narrated by the author herself, who did an amazing job. ( )
  renbedell | Jun 17, 2016 |
The basic gist of this book is Jane Austen with magic, which pretty much sold me, and it's been on my TBR since its 2010 release. In the meantime, I've loaded up on Kowal's short fiction, which I love, and have been gobbling up her writing advice via her fab writing craft podcast, Writing Excuses.

Sadly, all that time waiting lead me to an anticipation that this novel just couldn't meet. It's a fluffy fun Austen homage, breezy and brisk, but felt too short and a little too thin for my tastes.

There's a mishmash of Austen elements in this novel, from Pride and Prejudice to Emma, and it's a very fun to see what threads Kowal includes. Our heroine, Jane Ellsworth is not pretty, but gifted in the arts and skills of a proper woman, including working glamour -- magic. Her sister Melody is pretty. Their mother is a hysterical hypochondriac. Jane fancies their neighbor, Mr Dunkirk, and charms his younger sister -- who seems to be having a fling with someone she shouldn't. The moody and broody Mr. Vincent, gifted glamourist, finds offense in everything Jane does. In the end, Jane behaves as no Austen heroine would (hooray!) and is justly rewarded.

The use of magic here is very mundane -- decorative elements, some cosmetic -- and at times I forgot I was reading a fantasy, it felt so natural. Fantasy can be very hit or miss for me, but I liked the light touches and especially enjoyed the societal implications of magic -- a domestic art, to be sure, but ultimately the grand works and admiration go to the rare men who make it their craft. Still, I wanted more: more about the characters, more about glamour, more about Jane's world. (Although the hardcover is 300 pages, I swear the formatting is what gave it that page count -- this read so quickly!)

There are five books set in this world, following Jane, and I'm already on the third one.(The second book reads entirely different from this one -- less Austen-y and more ambigu-Regency, which is fine by me.)

I feel like this review is damning with faint praise, and perhaps it is. If this were a standalone, I would probably be unhappier than I am, but the remaining four books make me feel a little forgiving -- I can still try to gobble up the details I'm hungering for. Other readers may not feel so kind! ( )
  unabridgedchick | Jun 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
A quick, light read, with characters that the reader will feel right at home with.
added by Katya0133 | editBooklist, Rebecca Gerber (Aug 1, 2010)
Readers will be disappointed only when they finish this enchanting story, which is suffused with genteel charm.
added by Katya0133 | editLibrary Journal, Stacey Hayman (Jun 15, 2010)
Kowal's unique take on an overly familiar plot does hold some potential, but the magic, like her sensible protagonist, comes across as a bit too tame.
added by Katya0133 | editKirkus Reviews (Jun 15, 2010)
The story plods at a wooden pace until the climax, which achieves a sprightly comedy-of-errors froth.
added by Katya0133 | editPublishers Weekly (Jun 14, 2010)
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To my grandmothers, Mary Elois Jackson and Robinette Harrison who taught me the importance of family and storytelling.
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The Ellsworths of Long Parkmead had the regard of their neighbours in every respect.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description

Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own. [Amazon product description 8/9/2010]
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In a Jane Austen-inspired alternate universe, two sisters, one beautiful and the other skilled in the glamour arts, test the limits of their gifts on an unscrupulous suitor.

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