Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories, #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by Tor Books on June 7th 2011
Genres: Adult Fantasy
Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.
Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
This debut novel from an award-winning talent scratches a literary itch you never knew you had. Like wandering onto a secret picnic attended by Pride and Prejudice and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Shades of Milk and Honey is precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen…if only she had been a fantasy writer.
This book is the perfect read for any fans of Jane Austen or fantasy of manners. Everything about this feels like stepping into a Jane Austen novel, with magic. With that being said, some people are going to enjoy that while others are going to find it unoriginal. I happened to be in the camp that enjoyed it.
Firstly, the writing and world building makes you feel as though you’ve stepped right back into Regency England. I felt like I was watching the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice while reading. The magic system of glamour added a new and interesting touch, as it was a passive kind of magic used for art and aesthetics, rather than the typical offensive magic we see typically for fighting.
Secondly, the characters are all Jane Austen archetypes. Again, some people may find it unoriginal, but I found it comforting. I immediately enjoyed our main character, who reminded me very much of Lizzie Bennet. The familial dynamics explored were also reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice.
Lastly, the story was also one that feels like Jane Austen canon. That did make it slightly predictable, but for me, that was enjoyable. Again, I found it very comforting and familiar, so I was able to fly through this book and it left me feeling satisfied. This is the first book in a series that I plan to continue.
Overall, as is painfully obvious, this book felt nostalgic for me even though it was my first time reading it. All of the elements felt familiar and cozy. If you are not a fan of Jane Austen, you will not enjoy this. While it wasn’t the most original story, I found it fun. I have heard the rest of the series gets a little more original, while maintaining all of the elements I enjoyed, so I look forward to continuing.