Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey is the first book in her Glamourist Histories series, a set of novels which answer the surely proverbial question – what kind of stories would Jane Austen have produced if she had written fantasy novels? This opening novel should delight any fans of Austen, with threads of Austen’s prose style colouring the way Kowal’s narrative unfolds, and characters that nod to infamous figures in the likes of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. In Kowal’s hands Regency England becomes a fantastical and magical world which is somehow believable, a testament, surely, to the care with which she integrates the magic system the story is so dependent upon into the established conventions of a Regency romance narrative.
“One must not put trust in novelists, Beth; they create worlds to fit their own needs and drive their characters mad in doing it”
Set in Dorchester, Dorset in 1814, Shades of Milk and Honey opens as a romance heavily inspired by the Regency England depicted in Jane Austen’s novels… with one key difference – the existence of the art of glamour. Just as a proper young lady is expected to paint, play piano, dance, read, have impeccable table manners and so on and so forth, the manipulation of glamour is particularly essential to those ladies of quality. Jane Ellsworth is one such accomplished lady – it is just a shame she is practically a spinster at age twenty-eight and isn’t quite as fair or charming as her younger sister Melody, the more emotional and impulsive of the pair whose own brush with romance draws the Ellsworth family into a tale filled with plenty of balls, eligible gentlemen, and afternoon tea.