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Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories Series #1)

Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories Series #1)

4.0 58
by Mary Robinette Kowal

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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


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.

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.)

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Glamourist Histories Series , #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
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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Shades of Milk and Honey 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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 :)
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
Gurdonark More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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 :)
Zot79 More than 1 year ago
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."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Madragal More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
209 pages +/- excellent story, very detailed, cheerful light reading
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gtg bbt
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this the right place?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a LAME imitation of Jane Austen. What a LAME read. Don't bother.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of the separate genres always complain. The theme of beauty is covered in Robbs mysteries where complete body sculpture allows perfect looks and longivity to those with money the austin rip offs are glutting the romance now adding sub genre to the mix borrow not a keeper
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not ground-breaking by any means, but it's a pleasant diversion and a fast read. A good reminder that fantasy doesn't have to have swords or dragons.
ganymeder More than 1 year ago
but somehow I hadn't gotten around to it. Then I came across this deal in BookBub and bought it and it was worth every penny. :) The author has claimed the book is like "Jane Austen with magic" and that's an accurate description. For most of the book, I felt like I was reading one of Jane Austen's novels, except with 'glamour.' Admittedly, the first 50 or so pages was a little slow imo, with the characters seeming a bit flat, but after that you begin to care about what happens to them, and the final chapters of the book are more exciting and climactic than any of the Austen I have read. I enjoyed this book very much, and I'm sure you will too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not at all like Austen--except borrowed plots/setting. Not witty, shallow characters, and v. transparent writing.
mtsilence More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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