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Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1)

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  6,538 ratings  ·  1,495 reviews
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 fo ...more
Paperback, 306 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Tor Books (first published July 26th 2010)
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Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. WredeJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna ClarkeBewitching Season by Marissa DoyleHis Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikShades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Regency Fantasy
5th out of 26 books — 15 voters
Mistborn by Brandon SandersonThe Way of Kings by Brandon SandersonThe Gunslinger by Stephen KingThe Way of Shadows by Brent WeeksHowl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Sword and Laser Fantasy List
394th out of 709 books — 980 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Khanh (Clowns, Nightmares, and Bunnies)
This book is like Jane Austen's works in the way that a genetically modified out-of-season greenhouse tomato is like a cherry. Sure, they're technically both classified as fruits. They're red. They're juicy-looking. They're attractive. The difference is that when you bite into said GMO tomato, it tastes like mealy, mushy, tasteless crap. This book is the equivalent of a limp, tasteless slice of tomato on a McDonalds' hamburger. Why bother? You're just going to pick it off and throw it away anywa ...more
Thank you, brian tanabe!

Have you ever slapped someone, good and hard? I can still remember the one and only time I did, the anger boiling up and over, the near involuntary windup of the arm and spring-loaded swing-through, the crack of the hand on the offender's cheek, the numb and then sting in the palm, the blipping rush of incredible satisfaction instantaneously followed by a gushing of fear and guilt? Yeah. It felt good and solid before the last fear and guilt part. I still remember all that
Sherwood Smith
This very talented writer has written a Regency romance that features a few of Jane Austen's spellings, adding in a truly nifty magical system. Unfortunately, the magic seems little integrated with the world, having almost no impact on the culture--probably that's being saved for the sequel.

The comparison with Jane Austen might sell books, but that's also kind of a high bar. This story feels more like a Regency romance, without much of Austenesque irony or complication of character; on the othe
This was an incredibly frustrating book. The charm of Austen lies in the style of writing: light, witty, insightful, elegant, and able to skewer Regency life at a moment's notice. And while "Shades of Milk and Honey" makes sure to pack in plenty of Regency manners and swooning, the writing style is so jarring that I ended up reading passages aloud to other people, just to confirm that they really did make no damn sense.

The author reuses words at an amazing pace -- frequently the same word is rep
So there were many nice things in this book. The Austin-esque plot was interesting, and the main character and her relationship with her sister was layered, I really think the character was well-drawn and the best thing about the book. Her POV as the "plain" sister was written from a very real place.

I guess I just ached for a bit more complexity, with the plot (and romance) and the world-building. There's some VERY interesting magic conceits here, and I just wanted a bigger scope. I think the au
Good God, I resent this book so much for not being awesome. Georgette Heyer put me in the mood for another regency, and combine that with fantasy? Sold.

I want a refund. The Heyer danced along, sparkly with charm; this book plodded, leaving me with an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia and boredom at the shallowness and banality and insipidity of well-to-do country life. The conversation didn’t sparkle wittily, it clunked. And the heroine was frankly too stupid to keep breathing.

Mostly though,
I finished Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal and I was bit mixed; from early word of mouth and reviews I have expected a more substantial book rather than the very light beach reading novel this turned out to be; it is pretty much Jane Austen light, without any real social commentary or depth to the world building, all revolving around relationships and romance, while magic is pretty in-essential to the story except as a vehicle of allowing the main character to 'shine" as a "plai ...more
Jacob Proffitt
I suppose that it is natural to compare any competently written book featuring Regency-era gentry and romance to Jane Austen. Inevitable as it is, I kind of wish it weren't so common. This book isn't anything like Jane Austen except in the above surface aspects. The thing is, the book has a charm and grace of its own that I deeply enjoyed and appreciated and the fact it does so without cribbing noticeably from any of the Regency greats (most notably Austen and Heyer) is a really remarkable achie ...more
I love Jane Austen and I love fantasy, so you would think this book, which mixes the two, would be right up my alley, especially since it was written by a Hugo Award-winning author. Can't miss! and yet, somehow, it does. Superficially it's a very Austenesque tale, but it lacks the wit, charm and complexity of Austen and the better Regency writers.

Jane is the homely older sister with all the talent in the family: art, music and magic. But at age 28, she feels like she's fated to become a spinst
I had the oddest reaction to this book - I enjoyed it while reading it, but the moment I'd finished it I couldn't stem a growing swell discontent. Certainly, Ms. Kowal's command of Regency-era literary styling was excellent - it felt of the time, without being unreadable to a modern reader. And her conceit of "glamour" started out as interesting, but unfortunately, like the rest of the book, really came to naught.

What kept me reading at first was the surety that something had to happen eventuall
This is the book I was looking forward to love. It had wonderful reviews from people I trust, it had that lovely mash of ingredients I love, it had an interesting magic concept... I read and was underwhelmed, and now, a month and a half later I can hardly remember what it was about. It is a regency novel with magic in it. But it seemed that the regency part and the magic part were too diluted to give space for each other that that the whole book seems too empty. I liked the characters well enoug ...more
I can see why a lot of people enjoyed this, but it kept missing for me, at least in terms of the story and characters, which were often painfully obvious lifts from Jane Austen's novels. The magic, on the other hand, was interesting and when done for itself, worked very well. There wouldn't have been a qualification to the statement about the magic if it hadn't been so relentlessly tied to womanly arts and graces, that any woman of respectable birth must be skilled in to attract a man - seriousl ...more
The Regency-plus-magic in which Jane takes us through the tiniest shades of her emotions regarding her plainness, her relationship with her beautiful sister, Melody, and her marriage prospects, while the magic is confined to literally decorative use.

I didn't care for this. The pacing was such that for almost two hundred pages nothing happens but feeeeelings, and then suddenly revelations and chases and duelling pistols and so on are rushing by so quickly that the characters don't seem to be abl
[Name Redacted]
A nice, light, frothy story set in an alternate version of the Regency period in England, a version of our world in which sensory magic ("Glamour") has been incorporated into human society as little more than another fine art. Robinette Kowal is faithful to the setting and the style of Jane Austen whom she is intentionally and openly aping throughout. Based on what she's said about the next volume in the series, it sounds like the next one will reflect Dickens' influence more than Austen's -- a ...more
If you told me that this was an actual Regency-era fiction, I would probably believe you. Kowal's research is impeccable, and the book feels authentic to the time it recreates. Except, you know, with the addition of subtle magical glamour, which seems like a perfectly reasonable thing for a young lady of good breeding to have done with her time, so I don't see why I should doubt that aspect. Kowal sets up the slight divergence from reality in expert fashion, slipping it into the first paragraphs ...more
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ok, so: comparing this to Jane Austen is like comparing the proverbial lighting bug to lightning.

and granted, the author didn't put all those Austen comparisons on the cover, the publisher did. but!

these people are boring! our heroine has nothing of the fire of an Austen heroine. at one point she says, "I cannot imagine a cat snoring," and i believe it. i can't imagine her imagining anything.

the book is certainly intended to be a period piece, but it's Period Piece Lite: forget the social issues
Shades of Milk and Honey is absolutely lovely. I picked this book up sometime in 2013, and only started reading it this December, which I declared ARC-free.

This is a tranquil, delicate and very beautiful read which I named one of my best reads of 2014. It's quietly charming, unhurried, and if you are a fan of Jane Austin, you are guaranteed to love it.

Jane is a 28-year-old spinster, plain, good-natured, ever so patient, and her only distinction is that she is extremely gifted self-taught glamour
3.5 Stars. Mary Robinette Kowal's debut novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, is described as "Jane Austen with magic" -- while I wouldn't go quite that far, Kowal's premise sets Shades apart from typical Austen-esque tributes and retellings. In an age when women were taught all manner of drawing room accomplishments in the hope of securing a good marriage, the most desirable skill of all is the use and manipulation of glamour. Glamour folds are pulled from the atmosphere and woven into murals, used ...more
2.5 stars
First, let me say that I am not a Jane Austen-ophile. I've enjoyed some of the movies made from her books, but I don't think I've yet actually read one.
Having said that, this novel of manners feels very typical of the type, with thankful little 'bridges' - after a particular bit of dialogue, saying 'they further conversed upon the weather, the party and the luck of the party to have such good weather', instead of forcing us to hear every meaningless exchange between them.
I liked the m
For all the praise that "Shades of Milk and Honey" garnered in its respective release, I was very excited to read this Regency romance with an added flare of magic incorporated into the novel, but surprisingly, it turned out more light than I expected it would. The characters felt a bit common (though I did like Jane and Vincent), and I felt there wasn't enough delving into the magic elements to really bring it more to life and full uniqueness. It's a standard story where you can see what's comi ...more
colleen the contrarian  ± (... never stop fighting) ±
An enjoyable enough book, though a bit thinner than I had hoped for.

I think I expected something more like The Magicians and Mrs. Quent or even Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell where the society, manners and romance stuff are all covered, but which has a foundation of mystery, adventure, political intrigue or, heck, considering this is heavily based on Austen, some social commentary/satire and biting wit.

Sadly, we're pretty much left with only the society, manners and romance - the biggest twi
I'm vacillating between two and three stars on this one -- it's not halfway between, I'm just trying to decide whether I'll give it credit for keeping me reading, or dock it for how very high its debt to Jane Austen's work is. It's basically a cut and paste job on Austen's characters and situations, and while the writing is competent enough, it doesn't have the same subtlety and humour that Jane Austen brought to her work. It suffers very much in comparison, because of its debt.

The fantasy woven
Nahát, micsoda kis kedves regény. Teljesen Jane Austen koppintás, fűszerezve egy kis varázslattal, fodrokkal és művészettel. Nem mondom, hogy hibátlan, mert nem az, de szerethetőek a karakterek, kellemes a történet, a központi téma örök: hogyan fogjon egy csúnyácska, egy szép és egy naív kisasszony magának megfelelő férjet.
I thoroughly enjoyed Shades of Milk and Honey. Kowal does an excellent job of mixing the fantastic with the elements of a Regency novel. The plot is familiar enough for the reader to feel comfortable with the magical additions which have been added.

I will admit that I have been looking forward to listening to this title since I heard that the author would be reading it. I have attended panels led by Kowal which covered public reading, creating different character voices, and podcasting. The audi
This is one of those books that I wanted to like more than I actually did. On the face of it, it has lots of what I like: a Regency setting with magic; Jane Austen references; an intelligent heroine; an intelligent(ish) love story...

And it was all very nice and very pleasant, but for all the characters' talk about passion in art, I really didn't find any passion in it. It was just, ever so slightly, lifeless.

I will buy the next book in the series, but if it isn't any better than this, I don't th
Elisha Condie
I was totally suckered into this book. The quote on the front cover says "“A beautiful, lyrical, tightly-woven meld of Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, and Beauty and the Beast!". And I'm thinking, I don't want just one, I'll take six!

But Jane Eyre it ain't. Same with Jane Austen. And I don't know where the Beauty & the Beast reference came from. This book is eerily similar to "Sense & Sensibility" with a bit of magic thrown in, and a lot of character development taken out. Our main character
Kat Richardson
Jane Austen with magic! *LOVE* Oh I do love this book! As a Jane Austen reader (it would be unfair to say I'm a fan, since I don't go that far in my knowledge of the cannon) I had a grand time with this book. The magic system was interesting, the characters were intriguing (even if one of them was almost insufferable--but necessarily so) and the writing was crisp, well-paced, and engaging. It's not a perfect Austen copy and I think that's quite appropriate since it's written for a modern audienc ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This book wants to be Jane Austen with magic. It's entertaining enough if you like Regency domestic dramas and are looking for a light read, but that's the best I can say for it.

Shades of Milk and Honey follows the typical Austenian marriage plot: two daughters of the landed gentry seek eligible husbands, people are mannerly and attend balls and dinner parties, etc. The book seems to be set in an alternate world, where magic is considered a ladylike accomplishment like painting or piano playing,
Steph Su
SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY sounded like it was going to be my favorite type of novel. Who can resist a magical version of Regency England? The idea is certainly nothing new in books. However, while I thought SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY captured the language of the time fairly well, it ended up having very little substance to fully ensnare me.

My favorite thing about this book was its language. Kowal’s writing style is very loyal to Austen’s—to the point where it might feel like you know exactly what’s
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Mary Robinette Kowal was the 2008 recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and her short story "For Want of a Nail" won the 2011 Hugo. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and several Year's Best anthologies. She is the author of Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass (Tor 2012).

Mary, a professional puppeteer and voice actor, has performed for LazyTown (CBS)
More about Mary Robinette Kowal...

Other Books in the Series

Glamourist Histories (5 books)
  • Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories, #2)
  • Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories, #3)
  • Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories, #4)
  • Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories, #5)
Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories, #2) Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories, #3) Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories, #4) The Lady Astronaut of Mars First Flight

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