Thursday, March 13, 2014

REVIEW: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories, #2)Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2012
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
Series: Glamourist Histories #2
Format: In Print
Narrated By: None

Recommended subtitle:  Awww, Shit.  Napoleon again?

WARNING:  Spoilers for the first in this series Shades of Milk and Honey!

This book is second in a series that takes place in a Regency Era England that is almost identical to Jane Austen’s except that people have the ability to create elaborate illusions with magic, called glamours. They use this ability mostly to gussy up the living or dining room or for entertainment purposes. In this second book in the series, there is more exploration of the more serious uses this ability could be put to.

Book one, Shades of Milk and Honey, ended in typical Austen style with the heroine Jane marrying her chosen mate, a brooding glamour artist named Vincent. At the beginning of this book we are told that most of the initial few months of Jane and Vincent’s marriage has been spent working together on a glamour commission for the Prince. They are due for some R&R and Vincent reveals his plans for them to travel to the countryside outside of Brussels, Belgium to visit a colleague. Travel on the continent has just opened up with the recent imprisonment of Napoleon on Elba. At first Jane relishes the lack of responsibility and the time alone with her husband. Shortly after arriving at the house of Vincent’s friend, however, Vincent becomes secretive and distant which arouses Jane’s curiosity and insecurity. Pretty soon it is known that Napoleon has escaped and is on the move again.

I read the first in this series last year and was pretty seriously meh about it. My Review. The gist is that I thought that rather than a homage to Austen it was closer to a rip off and a pretty awkwardly done one at that. But LOTS of people disagreed with me – it got all kinds of awards attention as did this installment as you can see above. I think because I was so contrary to popular opinion and because I like the idea of these books so much I was lured back to try the second in the series. And I’m generally glad I did. While it still had some significant flaws for me, I enjoyed this one quite a bit more than the first. Once I picked it up, I was easily hooked and finished it rather quickly.

Part of the reason I liked this sequel better is that it departs a good bit from the Austen model. We are still in Austen’s society but the story is almost an action/adventure which made me stop making comparisons. I also thought there was some really good stuff in here about adjusting to married life and particularly with the idea of becoming a mother. I appreciated that Jane was torn about having kids. She wants them but is also enjoying unprecedented freedom for a woman of her time and she knows that starting a family will hamper some of that.

The flaws?
1)Not substantive to the book but Jane is continually described as plain and the fact that she didn’t undergo some miraculous transformation to swan in book one was one of the things I liked about it. The woman on this cover of the book however is a supermodel.

2)The Glamour in Glass. I was pretty enamored of the magic system in book one but here it took a turn for the very confusing. Though a lot of time was devoted to explaining it, I couldn’t figure out how the damn glamour in glass thing worked and therefore every time it was used (and it played an important role in the story) it pulled me right out of the story and into a befuddled state of not understanding what the hell was actually happening. May not be a problem for a smarter reader. :)
3)Jane. Jane’s an Elinor Dashwood - admirable, smart and self-sufficient. But really a story needs a Marianne Dashwood, an Emma or a Lizzie to make it interesting. I love Elinor but all by herself is BORing. Beyond that I just don’t like Jane very much. I don’t dislike her but I don’t love her even though she does some pretty heroic things in he book.
4)The rescue scene. I won’t reveal more about this but basically it seemed entirely implausible and unbelievable. It didn’t work for me.

Final Verdict: An alt-history action adventure with the flavor of Austen. I enjoyed it considerably more than book one and will be reading the next in the series. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Do you have a favorite Alt-History?

No comments:

Post a Comment