Siria's Reviews > Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
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it was ok
bookshelves: 21st-century, american-fiction, fantasy, historical-fiction, romance

Shades of Milk and Honey is a novel set in an alternate Regency England where genteel young women are expected to learn how to cast glamours as well as cover screens and knit purses. In an early scene, the protagonist Jane—a talented user of such glamours, though overlooked by many because of her plainness—tutors another young woman about glamours, showing her how the folds of light she's making are too clumsy, her stitches too obvious, the overall effect crude. This is, sadly, a good analogy of the book as a whole.

It's an amazing idea, an Austenian-inspired world in which magic is largely a female discipline, dismissed and undervalued, and the right author could make this funny and charming, like the best of Heyer, or full of wit and irony, like Austen. Kowal is not that author. The book plods, the pacing is terrible, the romance paint-by-numbers, the characterisation is completely lacking in nuance—the main characters, Jane and Melody, are both unlikeable. One is a pushover whom we're told is smart but who often acts like an idiot; the other is a vulgar brat, who acts like a more juvenile version of Marianne from Sense and Sensibility. You've probably also worked out from the latter's name that verisimilitude is not a priority of Kowal. I lost count of the number of times when I said, "But no one in Regency England would have behaved like that/said that/could have acted that way without raising numerous eyebrows." The ending descends into farce, exactly the kind of tosh that Austen was mocking in Northanger Abbey.

I want someone to take this and rewrite it. I want someone to write a Regency England with gendered magic, with a heroine who's got Lizzy Bennett's fire, who chafes at the dismissal of her abilities, who is nobody's muse. Now that is a book I would read with great satisfaction; I'm not moved to read the remainder of this trilogy at all.
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Reading Progress

April 22, 2014 – Started Reading
April 22, 2014 – Shelved
April 22, 2014 –
page 100
April 23, 2014 –
page 150
April 23, 2014 – Shelved as: 21st-century
April 23, 2014 – Shelved as: american-fiction
April 23, 2014 – Shelved as: fantasy
April 23, 2014 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
April 23, 2014 – Shelved as: romance
April 23, 2014 – Finished Reading

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