Jeremy Zimmerman's Reviews > Glamour in Glass

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
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Jun 07, 12

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Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass, her second novel and a sequel to her critically acclaimed Shades of Milk and Honey, returns readers to her alternate version of Europe in the 1810s. Diverging from the Jane Austen style story of the first book, it explores married life, the magical art inherent in her world, and the politics of France under the shadow of Napolean.

Set in a world where the Prince of Wales serves as Regent over the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Faerie, and Ireland, England breathes a heavy sigh of relief while Napoleon lives in exile on the island of Elba. Against this backdrop, Jane Vincent finds herself needing to adapt to many new things in her life. She has married the love of her life, but now must learn to handle the everyday challenges of marriage as well as the change in social status in becoming an artisan who works with the ephemeral magic known as glamour.

For their honeymoon, Jane and her husband take a working holiday to Belgium just as Napoleon escapes from his exile in Elba. Jane soon finds that Belgium is split regarding their feelings about Napoleon, and her ability to trust anyone quickly becomes uncertain. She must use all of her wits and talent with glamour to save her marriage and escape the continent before Napoleon’s forces sweep the countryside.

Glamour in Glass is meticulously researched, drawing upon the language of the period to tell a more modern style of story. It is not flawless in its accuracy, as Kowal will admit, but for those like me who are not experts on the Regency era the effect is astounding.

Its intimate perspective is also distinctive from common fantasy fare. Though there is action towards the end of the story, most of the book revolves around the internal drama of Jane Vincent. The early chapters center on inner parties and conversations around sitting rooms. Kowal handles these scenes with deft skill, illustrating the tension and peril of these situations through Jane’s perspective. Kowal manages to make these scenes look relatively innocuous while also seeding the novel with plot elements that weave together tightly as the plot unfolds.

The pacing on the book starts out very slow, so impatient readers may not be willing to wait for the slow and consistent acceleration that occurs as the plot progresses. Those who are expecting another Austen-esque plot in this sequel may also be surprised, as this book revolves much more around domestic life and international intrigue than concerns of obtaining a suitable spouse.

Those considerations of individual taste aside, I found the book to be an excellently crafted gem. Kowal’s talent with the craft comes through as all the pieces fall together in an expertly woven narrative. She has further sequels already contracted and I look forward to their arrival.

As a small side note, the book that was printed was not exactly the final manuscript Kowal and her editor sent to the printers. Several mistakes had crept back into the book and the first sentence disappeared entirely. Errata for the book, and the first sentence of the book, can be found on in this blog entry.
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