Book 8 of 2015: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal


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 byPride 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.

I am a big Austenite. I fell deeply in love with Pride and Prejudice when it was assigned in AP English my senior year. I had never heard of her before that and I fell deep for her writing style and the characters. It was probably the only AP English book I was able to finish within the time period. I am also a big fan of Emma. I know, she’s not really the most loved, but I feel a kinship to Emma.

Jane Austen is one of my top authors of all time.

That said, Mary Robinette Kowal’s voice is reminiscent to Miss Austen. While I was reading Shades of Milk and Honey, I found myself hungering for a Jane Austen book. I had already read most of them, but I hadn’t touched Northanger Abbey or Persuasion. It is because of Kowal that I bought those books.

Anyways, Shades of Milk and Honey is a fantasy rendition of the Regency era. There is magic, but it is used as an artform and a way to entice men into marriage. It is an art that mostly women or esteemed male artists use. You don’t see Glamour being used in warfare. Though I do see hints that it could eventually happen.

If you are big on having your magic used for more reasonable purposes, this book might not be for you. However, I love that there is something new to do with magic. The imagery used to describe magic at work is in depth and beautiful. I felt the beauty and pull of the magic the characters felt.

The story wasn’t grand, but it served its purpose. I was flipping through the pages quickly near the end. Yes, it was close to a Jane Austen book in story, but it was different. I don’t feel that Kowal was trying to imitate Austen, I feel she was paying homage.

I am definitely going to read more in this series just to see what else happens.

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