Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Completion Date: August 26, 2011
Reason for Reading: Fun!
The fantasy novel you've always wished Jane Austen had written

Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane's skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody's suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
I have always been a fan of fantasy and this book has been getting a lot of attention lately. It sounded interesting and it was being compared to Jane Austen. I might not be a huge fan of the books that she actually wrote, but I do appreciate her writing style. I was curious what the publishing world considered 'Jane Austen writing fantasy.' First of all, wouldn't it have been wonderful if Jane Austen had written fantasy? That would be much more exciting than the fact she wrote period. Her works have lasting power, though, and I applaud her for her talent and success.

I have been mentioning lately that I really enjoy the circus idea in books. I say idea because this book actually reminds me a lot of the tents that were made for the circus in The Night Circus. This is a society where people have magical abilities and essentially are able to manipulate their world in order to create illusions. When I read The Night Circus I immediately wanted to visit the circus. When I read this book, I spent the entire both wishing I had the abilities of Jane in this book, and if I couldn't, I wanted to see the wonderful things that she both created and experienced during the course of this novel. They can take a painting and give it movement, create a forest in your bedroom, create an entire scene for enjoyment by all, and many other magical and wonderful things.

The main character in this book is Jane. I may not have read all of Jane Austen's novels, but this book is easily based off of a love of them. The romance qualities remind me a bit of the romances that happen in Austen's novels, but with enough originality that it doesn't seem like anything is being copied. I think it is the spirit of the book more than anything, but also the spirit of the character. Jane is plain looking, she believes, and has basically given in to the fact that she will be a spinster. That doesn't stop her from having attractions to the men in her world. She just assumes it will not be returned. Her sister is the real beauty, but she is actually jealous of Jane's ability to create illusions. It leads to interesting interactions through the course of the book.

I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't perfect, though. I am not a huge fan of the authors writing style. There was something that prevented me from getting entirely wrapped up in the book. I really liked Jane, though; as well as the world that has been created, the magic, and how it all works very well well for the time period.

If you get a chance to read this book I recommend it!

This review was cross-posted at Historical Tapestry.


  1. Anonymous12:10 AM

    I do believe I am going to buy it. I think it's her distant POV athat creates the quietness of this book. But I am a sucker for historical fantasies like this one.
    Great post.

  2. Oh. Well, that sounds like a fascinating read... I read Jane Austen when I was in my teens and loved it. Haven't read much since then but I think I might have to look into this book. Very nice review!

  3. I've got this one on my shelf but it seems like whenever I might get around to it I've always just finished another historical fantasy romance, and I don't want to overwhelm myself. Comparisons to The Night Circus do make me want to get to it sooner rather than later, though!

  4. I have to say the title really grabbed me. I have only read one Jane Austen and it was just this year. I think I am curious enough to check this one out.


  5. This sounds good! I love Jane Austen, but not all of the take-offs. Some I've enjoyed, some I could have skipped. Shades of Milk and Honey intrigues me.

  6. Oooh, this sounds like something I'd really love! It was in my wishlist already but I'd kind of forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Holy cramoly this sounds awesome! How have I not heard of this before?! This book combines two of my favorite bookish things: Austen-esque novels and Fantasy books. I'm sold!

  8. I need to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell first! This DOES sound fun...

  9. **Melinda: Yes, she matches Austen's writing very well, and that was always my problem with getting pulled into Austen.

    **Cath: I hope you enjoy it! I really thought it captured Jane Austen really well.

    **Fyrefly: Well, I read this book before The Night Circus and enjoyed The Night Circus a lot more, but there were still connections.

    **jehara: I have only read one Jane Austen myself, but I enjoyed this book.

    **jenclair: I don't really enjoy the spin-offs, but this one was done really well.

    **Ana: It reminded me of you, actually. I think it is your type of read.

    **Kat: It is really quite good. I hope you enjoy it!

    **Care: Meh, I wouldn't rush out and read Jonathan Strange. It didn't work well for me.

  10. oh really!? that's the first lukewarm response I've seen to JS&MN. Hmmm. What to do, what to do. It's OK, it's not like I even have it in the house. :)

  11. **Care: I know! I feel like a bad person. I wanted to love it, but I just didn't... I started it a couple years ago and was actually enjoying it at the time, but never finished it. I wish I had read it back then because I think I have read way too many awesome books that sort of overshadow it...


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