Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽'s Reviews > Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
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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.

Jane is the plain 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 spinster, and she spends most of the book struggling with her insecurities. Frankly, it got pretty tiresome. Melody is her lovely 18 year old sister who doesn't have any particular talents. They love each other, but each is deeply jealous of what the other sister has that she lacks. And they've both developed a tendre for the same eligible gentleman, Mr. Dunkirk, who lives on a neighboring estate.

It's interesting that the use of magic, called "glamour," in this world seems to be limited to creating visual illusions. In most ways it's simply another ladylike talent, like drawing, singing or playing piano, that well-bred young women are expected to develop. However, there's a Mr. Vincent who moves into the neighborhood, who is truly an accomplished artist with his glamour illusions. Jane wants to learn from his talent and magical works of art, but the two of them get off on the wrong foot and develop a relationship that's prickly, at best.

This struck me as simply a young adult novel ... or maybe a simple young adult novel. I thought it was okay, but on the shallow side. I was hoping for so much more. Maybe I'll go re-read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
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Reading Progress

January 29, 2014 – Shelved
January 29, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
August 2, 2014 – Shelved as: all-aboard-the-jane-austen-train
August 2, 2014 – Shelved as: fantasy
August 2, 2014 – Shelved as: regency
August 2, 2014 – Shelved as: squeaky-clean-romance
August 2, 2014 – Finished Reading
August 16, 2016 – Shelved as: regency-or-victorian-fantasy

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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Felicia J. I felt exactly the same about this book - a vaguely pleasant read that could have been so much more. I was even more disappointed in the second book, which started stronger but ended with weak, amateurish Napoleonic "intrigue."


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ The library had the first and third books available (the second was checked out) so I've got the third one on my shelf at home waiting to be read. I'll probably give it a shot--a few of my friends have liked it, and the first one was a very quick read.


Felicia J. I also have the third audiobook. I picked it up in a two-for-one Audible sale. I'll give it a try, but if it's not better, I'm done with the series.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Felicia wrote: "I also have the third audiobook. I picked it up in a two-for-one Audible sale. I'll give it a try, but if it's not better, I'm done with the series."

My feelings exactly. I don't have a lot of hope, but I figure it's worth a few hours of my time since I've got the book anyway.


message 5: by Sherwood (new) - added it

Sherwood Smith I think these would have been perfectly good silver fork novels with an element of magic tacked on, had they not been so overshadowed by the marketing push to compare them to Jane Austen. I expect that comparison works for readers whose exposure to Jane Austen has been the Keira Knightley P&P, which is full of anachronisms. I tried the second, but it had even less a sense of humor and wit, and so I turned it back to the library for another reader who will be more its audience.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Sherwood wrote: "I think these would have been perfectly good silver fork novels with an element of magic tacked on, had they not been so overshadowed by the marketing push to compare them to Jane Austen. I expect ..."

Oh, the Kiera Knightly P&P. *sigh* Another good example of an Austen adaptation where I shake my head and say, it has its moments, but it shoulda/coulda been so much more.


QNPoohBear I am so sad you didn't love this book. I got caught up in the world and the story. I love Jane and Jane and Vincent together.

Glamour is much more than an illusion or womanly art as you will discover if you read Glamour in Glass.

Each book in the series is a different genre. Don't expect Jane Austen because the only similarity is the main characters are English and live in the 19th century. They're fact-checked and written with an 1815 dictionary. They must be read in order as they are a continuing saga. Check out her website to learn more about the creative process and what's coming next. She's already had beta readers look at her next book.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Qnpoohbear wrote: "I am so sad you didn't love this book. I got caught up in the world and the story. I love Jane and Jane and Vincent together. Glamour is much more than an illusion or womanly art as you will disc..."

If there's one thing that's surprised me on GR lately, it's that sometimes my opinion of a book differs completely from some of my friends' opinions, even through our taste in books overlaps and we usually agree. I try not to take it personally when friends think a book I've loved is a dud, even though I don't understand how anyone can NOT love Mara, Daughter of the Nile! Lol.

Anyway, my main complaints with Shades were that it wasn't a very complex book on any level (it struck me as very YA in that aspect), and I got so tired of Jane's insecurities and her bickering with Melody.

I'm in the middle of the third book right now, so too late for me to read them in order! I can see I missed some plot developments from the second book, but I've kind of figured it out as I go along. Trying to decide if I like it better than Shades. Maybe a little?


Victoria (Books and Things) I know the first book isn't the best and has a lot if issues, but I think that this series gets a lot better! Jane really matures and the relationship between her and Vincent is fleshed out more. They also explore their magic and it's possible applications. Additionally, the series tackles some different social issues and takes our protagonists to varied locations.


message 10: by Candace (new) - added it

Candace I could not even finish the first book. Even if it’s not compared to Austen , which I happen to be reading now, it’s definitely so simple that it fits better in the YA category. And even there it does not compare , YA books have become so much more complex. These simple plot books only work if there is something else going for them like characters we fall in love with, but these characters were very blah! I don’t think I can finish it to see if they get better! ( And like you, I love these fantasy of manners books, but they still must be well-written. )


message 11: by Lyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lyn Hill This author wrote a Hugo-award-winning book? I'm half-way through the first chapter and the writing is so bad I simply cannot continue for fear my cognitive powers will be damaged by exposure to the dross. Perhaps there were editors for the Hugo-winner? Perhaps it was not character-driven? No, no, I've abandoned it. Ranting is not necessary. Thank you for validating my experience. I do need that now and then. ;)


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Lyn wrote: "This author wrote a Hugo-award-winning book? I'm half-way through the first chapter and the writing is so bad I simply cannot continue for fear my cognitive powers will be damaged by exposure to th..."

You’re welcome! Your comment made me laugh. I’ve got friends who love this series so it’s nice for me to have my opinion validated too. Tastes just differ. :)


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