Erin's Reviews > Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
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's review
Oct 11, 2011

it was ok
Read in October, 2011

** spoiler alert ** ***Possible Spoiler (if you know the plot of "Pride & Prejudice")***

I found this book entirely tedious and boorish in language compared to the high writing of Jane Austen, from which this book takes its beginnings. The characters managed to be quite well-rounded but I place that honor in the hands of Jane Austen rather than Kowal, since her characters were obviously lifted directly from Austen's pages. Only because I am so familiar with Austen's work, I was disappointed to find that before the first chapter ended I already knew which of Kowal's characters corresponded to Austen's characters and thus what would be the outcome of the story. (There is clearly an Elizabeth, a Darcy & a Wickham, all of whom exhibit the same characteristics as Austen's original Pride & Prejudice characters and come to the same end.) I also found the language to be entirely low-brow compared to the high Victorian language of the novels this one attempts to copy. However, as a friend pointed out to me, this might be a good beginning novel for non-Austen fans who find her language too taxing.

I won't even try to dissect the flirting of the fantasy genre in this novel, which did manage to move the flow of the story forward but was also quite distracting and nonsensical. I was glad someone explained to me the use of "glamour" (i.e. magical ability to manipulate their surroundings to make things seem more fanciful than in reality) in the book as a regular quality among English ladies and considered a revered quality for men looking for a wife. Without this foreknowledge I would have been completely confused and annoyed and would have probably given up the book by the 2nd chapter.

I did give this book 2 stars instead of 1 because it was original and the author followed the themes of her predecessor to the letter (which, in itself, is not an admirable part of the book) but I can imagine that is quite hard to do in writing. I would not recommend this book to other readers because it was so painful for me to read (in short: obvious & unimaginative in comparison to the Jane Austen she is trying to recreate) but I commend the efforts to do so. Honestly, in my eyes, trying to reach the same bar as Jane Austen is a Herculean task and I can't imagine anyone with our current vernacular being able to accomplish it. I will eagerly keep reading similar authors to see if anyone can reach that lofty goal.
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