Shades of Milk and Honey

( 45 )

Overview

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 ...

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Shades of Milk and Honey

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“If Jane Austen had written a fantasy novel, Shades of Milk and Honey would have been the result. Written with painstaking attention to detail, Kowal’s prose is serenely evocative of the time period, and the fantastic elements are a seamless fit. The characterization is extremely well done and Jane is a sympathetic, strong and intelligent heroine whose devotion to her family trumps nearly every other concern. Give this one a try!” RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ stars, Top Pick!

“Readers will be disappointed only when they finish this enchanting story, which is suffused with genteel charm… With the grace of Sense and Sensibility, a touch of classic fairy tale magic, and an action-packed ending, this debut novel by an award-winning fantasy short story writer will appeal to fans of Jane Austen, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Susannah Clarke, and even Jasper Fforde.” Library Journal

“Cliché as it might sound, if Jane Austen had sat down to pen a fantasy, this is the book she would have written. The tone, the cadence, the sweep, every bow and curtsey of the language is woven into Shades of Milk and Honey… Kowal’s mastery is the art of the Austenite nuance… When I reached the last page I just wanted to start it all over again. It left me craving nothing but a cup of Constant Comment...and the sequel.” Intergalactic Medicine Show

 

“A beautiful, lyrical, tightly-woven meld of Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, and Beauty and the Beast—I couldn't put it down!” —Lilith Saintcrow

"Simply enchanting, and another great advance in an already impressive literary career. You're going to love this." —John Scalzi

"Shades of Milk and Honey is a lovely, smart, strange novel with everything on earth (and elsewhere) to recommend it. Smoothly crafted with a flair for romance and mystery, this story is one part meticulous manners and one part wild magic — composing a whole that's utterly irresistible." —Cherie Priest

“Kowal's first novel is a beautifully told story of being true: true to love, true to family, and true to art, even when it seems that one of them must give. It's a marvelous and promising debut, and hints at more wonders to come.” —Cory Doctorow

Publishers Weekly
In Kowal's quasi-Regency fantasy debut, plain Miss Jane Ellsworth envies her sister's looks, while flighty Melody envies Jane's talent with magical glamour. Rude, mysterious Mr. Vincent, a brilliant glamour artist hired to create living murals in a nearby mansion, shows little interest in the niceties of society, and none (it seems) in Jane. As Jane shyly seeks Mr. Vincent's tutelage and approval, Melody pursues a disastrous romance. A sprinkling of Jane Austen's idiosyncratic spellings (shew, teaze, etc.) doesn't hide the lack of her trenchant wit or distinctive characters, and period errors abound. Despite the tremendous potential in the magical manipulation of light and temperature, glamour is used solely for decoration and entertainment, with implausibly little effect on history or culture. The story plods at a wooden pace until the climax, which achieves a sprightly comedy-of-errors froth. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“If Jane Austen had written a fantasy novel, Shades of Milk and Honey would have been the result. Written with painstaking attention to detail, Kowal’s prose is serenely evocative of the time period, and the fantastic elements are a seamless fit. The characterization is extremely well done and Jane is a sympathetic, strong and intelligent heroine whose devotion to her family trumps nearly every other concern. Give this one a try!” RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ stars, Top Pick!

“Readers will be disappointed only when they finish this enchanting story, which is suffused with genteel charm… With the grace of Sense and Sensibility, a touch of classic fairy tale magic, and an action-packed ending, this debut novel by an award-winning fantasy short story writer will appeal to fans of Jane Austen, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Susannah Clarke, and even Jasper Fforde.” Library Journal

“Cliché as it might sound, if Jane Austen had sat down to pen a fantasy, this is the book she would have written. The tone, the cadence, the sweep, every bow and curtsey of the language is woven into Shades of Milk and Honey… Kowal’s mastery is the art of the Austenite nuance… When I reached the last page I just wanted to start it all over again. It left me craving nothing but a cup of Constant Comment...and the sequel.” Intergalactic Medicine Show

 

“A beautiful, lyrical, tightly-woven meld of Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, and Beauty and the Beast--I couldn't put it down!” --Lilith Saintcrow

"Simply enchanting, and another great advance in an already impressive literary career. You're going to love this." --John Scalzi

"Shades of Milk and Honey is a lovely, smart, strange novel with everything on earth (and elsewhere) to recommend it. Smoothly crafted with a flair for romance and mystery, this story is one part meticulous manners and one part wild magic -- composing a whole that's utterly irresistible." --Cherie Priest

“Kowal's first novel is a beautifully told story of being true: true to love, true to family, and true to art, even when it seems that one of them must give. It's a marvelous and promising debut, and hints at more wonders to come.” --Cory Doctorow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765325600
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 6/7/2011
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 104,335
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Robinette Kowal was the 2008 recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a Hugo nominee for her story “Evil Robot Monkey.” Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and several Year's Best anthologies. Mary is an active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and currently serves on the Board of Directors.  

A professional puppeteer and voice actor, she grew up in North Carolina and spent five years touring nationally with puppet theaters.  She wrote Shades of Milk and Honey while living in Iceland and performing on the hit television show Lazytown.  Mary currently lives in Portland, OR with her husband Rob and nine manual typewriters.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 45 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(24)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 25, 2011

    One of the best Austen-inspired novels I've read

    I will begin by saying that when it comes to Austen-sequels and other such fiction, I am not even the slightest-bit interested. I will read Georgette Heyer sometimes, but as a mean, I am not interested in imitators.

    Mary Robinette Kowal is no imitator. Her style and voice brought me right back to that feeling I got when I first read Jane Austen's work long ago. It was like discovering another fantasy book by Jane that she'd kept secret from the world.

    I fell in love with the characters as surely as I fell in love with Austen's. The story was engaging and quite clever and her gift of description pulled me right into the story, and whenever I was forced to put it down, I would spend the day wondering what was to come. I did not want this book to end! I'm so glad there's another! I'm off to buy it as we speak.

    I recommend this book to anyone who loves Austen, but who also enjoys an imaginative tale with magic and mystery.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    original and entertaining

    In England, plain-looking twenty-eight years old Jane Ellsworth is jealous of her beautiful sister Melody's looks. On the other hand, although she has some talent Melody is envious of Jane's magical glamour ability.

    Vulgar glamour artist Mr. Vincent is commissioned to create living murals in a nearby mansion. Reticent when it comes to males, Jane wants Mr. Vincent to mentor her in glamour usage; she also is attracted to him and wishes he would reciprocate. However, she has a minor hope he will tutor her and no hope he will desire her as men want Melody. On the other hand she is concerned with one of Melody's myriad of admirers who seems nasty with a personal agenda that she fears will harm her sibling.

    This is an interesting ironic look at Regency-like England ( for that matter it could be any society in which the aristocracy eats cake and everyone else battle over their crumbs) through a fantasy lens. The characterization is solid and the sense of being there is strong as the descriptions are vivid. The key to the story line is the ironic use of glamour by the aristocracy not to improve society but for selfish cosmetic use. Although the story line at times slows down with the excesses of the affluent, readers will enjoy what happened to Jane as she seeks her glamour groove.

    Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2010

    Fine First Novel, though not at all like Jane Austen

    If you've read a lot of Austen, this novel is the lightning bug to Austen's lightning. Some of Austen's characters are recognizable, but as traits, not as people. There is some awkward prose (and a lack of Austen's witty style). The story takes a very long time to get going. But about halfway it finds its feet, and though the villain is obvious from the start, it's fun to see how things resolve. If you like Regency romances, you should enjoy this book.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2013

    Excellent excursion to a Magical Austenverse

    This novel starts with a Jane-Austen-type universe and tweaks it with bursts of magic. It also features a heroine whose sensibility is a bit closer to a 21st C. woman than to the Misses Dashwood. In the wrong hands, the conceit would be cloying, but Ms. Kowal possesses the "right hands". This was a quick, fun read--for me an entertaining read over a Thanksgiving holiay.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2013

    Good magical realism read

    I have never read any Austen outside of college so I can't comment on this novel as an homage but chose it because of my love of magical realism. On that front the story most certainly delivers. The glamour (magic) is effortlessly made part of a story that is essentially one about societal intrigue and romance. I enjoyed it immensely, in no small part because I pictured Vincent (one of the male leads in the story) as Richard Armitage :)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012

    bizarre book...

    The book was mildly entertaining...but it's a mistake to try to tout this novel to Jane Austen lovers b/c we're bound to react, "It's nothing like her!"

    The main Ellsworth family is an obvious but flat copy of the Bennetts (Pride & Prejudice) and the language never gets beyond feeling like a light imitation of Austen. The characters are flat and so are the relationships between them.

    The idea of glamour is interesting, though, and it did remind me of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

    A light read, best to get it used or from a library :)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A fine, light entertainment

    I don't think I'm in the target demographic for this book. But I enjoyed it, anyway. I bought it as a gift for my daughter with the degree in English Lit and read it before she could take it home. Since I don't have much background in historical romance, specifically Jane Austen, it's difficult for me to make comparisons in that realm. I just allowed the story to take me where it wanted. Where it took me was to a genteel world of preaning society, where appearances and reputations are put above personal needs and desires. It's a world where art and culture take precedence over doing real work and the magical art of glamour has been added to the mix. To my naive perceptions and untrained modern eye, the author does a fine job of bringing this world alive, weaving together the fantasy and romantic aspects of the novel in a way that kept me turning pages right through to the end. I wish a few more mysteries had been introduced sooner. It took a while for the tension to build, other than the romantic frustrations of the main character. Some reviewers argue that the impact of this magical art ought to have had a greater impact on society than what is depicted here. But since we are seeing only a small corner of the world, essentially a couple of country estates, I think it is difficult to make that judgement. And while the actual Jane Austen may have intended to make deeper commentary on her society, I don't think that's how this homage was intended at all. It's really just a light entertainment, and (to quote Mr. Vincent from the novel) "Illusions should be entrancing without someone looking behind the scenes to see how they are made."

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2012

    Not my "cuppa"

    A reviewer I know likes to ask if a book is someone's "cuppa"--by that she is asking if it is that reader's "cup of tea", something that he or she finds appealing in a general sort of way. This book is not my cuppa. I only occasionally enjoy Austen pastiches, and this book did not appeal to me. As a scholar of nineteenth-century British literature, I was most disappointed by the author's failure to capture the sharpness of Austen's prose. I read Austen for more than just romance--I read her for her words. This author cannot compare, and in writing a pastiche of Austen, she draws attention to that fact.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2012

    Amazing book

    I really enjoyed reading this book. The characters were engaging and the wit and cleverness of the story makes you feel like you have stepped into an Austen book. Very well done! I look forward to hopefully another regency style book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mary Robinette Kowal is a modern day Jane Austen with this book!

    Mary Robinette Kowal is a modern day Jane Austen with this book! It was absolutely exceptional from start to finish. I was so quick to lose myself within the pages and in the magical world Kowal created.

    While the book definitely has similarities to some of Austen's stories, the author expertly made it her own and suitable for modern audiences. The unique introduction of glamour into this Victorian-like setting made the entire book dreamy and magical.

    I loved the characters in the book, from Jane Ellsworth, our leading lady who despite her plain looks and having an angel face of a sister to compete with, is talented, witty, and alluring enough to catch the eye of the ever so proper gentlemen, Mr. Dunkirk, and the mysterious Mr. Vincent -- to Mrs. Ellsworth and Lady KirkCameron. Each reminded me of some of my favorite Jane Austen characters, but were still as much Kowal's characters as Jane's.

    I would recommend this to any Jane Austen fan, the author does the style justice, but even if you aren't familiar with Austen's writings, this is a great read full of wit, magic, betrayal, and love - and I can't wait for the next book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2014

    Not at all like Austen--except borrowed plots/setting. Not witty

    Not at all like Austen--except borrowed plots/setting. Not witty, shallow characters, and v. transparent writing.

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  • Posted June 3, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Jane Austin might have been fanciful if...

    In a world of proper ladies and gentlemen magic is subtle and just part of everyday life. But its powers might be misdirected if controlled by people who don't have anybody's best interests at heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    Intelligent and charming

    If Miss Austen wrote fantasy and left out the boring parts of her novels, it would be this book!

    Read it and all the sequels (the fourth is almost out and the fifth and final one comes out spring 2015).

    Delightful whether you like fantasy, romance, both, or neither.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    A fun read

    Austen in a playful and whimsical voice

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    I quite liked it.

    As someone who mainly reads fantasy and historical fiction/ romance...this was the perfect combination. I liked the mixture of the two worlds and they blended quite well. The magic was pretty well explained...but a bit confusing at times. It would have been nice to learn a bit more of how it all worked....but I always want more when it comes to magic and how it works. The underlying story and romance helped move things along and provided a bit of drama and danger...though I found the romance a bit rushed in the end. I like more build up to the romance and dont like it tied up too quickly. But all in all a good read and i just might pick up the next one.

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    Posted April 23, 2012

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    Posted December 28, 2012

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    Posted April 9, 2012

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    Posted March 1, 2011

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    Posted May 2, 2013

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews

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