Saturday, August 4, 2012

Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

Oddly enough for me I read a few adult fiction books this summer and enjoyed all of them, something which probably won't continue in the fall since I'm still not sure where my school library keeps the adult fiction (I blame the fact they use the Library of Congress system of ordering which is a total pain to find things in). I had heard a bit of buzz for this book's sequel and I realized that I occasionally listen to a podcast, Writing Excuses, which the author co-hosts and since I liked what she had to say there I thought that was a good enough reason to try the book out. I haven't gotten around to trying out the sequel yet but I do plan to do so when my reading pile isn't as ridiculous as it got in the past few months.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Knowal
Summary: Jane Ellsworth is the 28 year old spinster daughter of the Ellsworth family and, while she's a charming young lady and quite talented at using Glamour (magic that alters how reality looks and to an extent how it interacts with it's surroundings), she's not stunningly beautiful and has resigned herself to the maiden aunt while her younger sister will eventually marry. But that doesn't mean she's one to sit by idly when her friends or family are in trouble and in the process she ends up having her own story to tell.  

The Good: Despite the fact that magic is an important part of the story, and that the story would have played out quite differently without it, Kowal makes it clear early on that it is not the most important part of the story and always made sure that, while it certainly helped move the story along at parts, it never overwhelmed the story or was the major driving force. I thought it was great that she was able to balance something so fantastical with Jane's rather mundane life and that she was able to create a very natural setting out of it. Also, a love triangle develops in the story (concerning Jane) and, while I was able to figure out by the end of the first few chapters who she would end up with, I felt that the way it was resolved was a very logical and in a way sincere manner. To keep spoilers to a minimum, there is a scene near the end where Jane and one of the men are talking and there is a moment where both Jane and the audience realize that, even though both of them have feelings for each other, they have some very different principles and Jane sees that she just can't agree with them and holds true to her own values and chooses the other man. I just really liked how that played out, especially since Jane is 28 and her suitors are at least that old/maybe even older, and more mature characters should (hopefully!) mean a more mature resolution for their problems.  

The Bad: While the romance is certainly done well, and I really like how the love triangle was resolved, as I said earlier it was dead simple to see who Jane would choose in the end just because it was the same person that nearly every heroine in her situation would have. Ie, while it does what it set out to do well it doesn't do anything better than I've ever seen or do anything new (except the part with the magic but, also as stated above, that's not the main focus of the story regardless).  Thankfully the story was strong enough that it never became dull but I wonder if some people, who have read a lot of Austin-esque romance, might find it a bit dull.

So again, despite the fact that this book felt more like comfort food than a strange, and oddly tasty, new dish I still rather liked it and plan on reading Glamor in Glass whenever I come across it. Hmm, it seems that I'm reading, and enjoying, more stories set in Regency England these days, maybe there's simply more stories in that setting being published so it's easier to find stories that I like.  

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