Shades of Milk and Honey

Mary Robinette Kowal
Shades of Milk and Honey Cover

Shades of Milk and Honey


Shades of Milk and Honey is an openly acknowledged homage to Jane Austen. It's a Comedy of Manners set in the Regency period where pretty much the only thing a young rich woman can do is wait for an eligible suitor. Young women in the hope of attracting a husband are expcted to be proficient in the skills of music, art and Glamour. Glamour is the magic of the book. Strands of Glamour are pulled from the ether and used to change the environment. They can be used to create illusions, create sounds and smells and entertain. On a day to day basis these skills are used to beautify rooms (and people!) and create a pleasant ambiance.

Jane is exceptionally proficient in the use of Glamour although being of plain appearance and at the ripe old age of 28 (!) feels destined for spinsterhood. Melody is her beautiful sister who appears to have men queuing for her attentions but herself is insecure at her lack of skill using Glamour compared to her sister.

Enter a few suitors, a few neighbours who have nothing better to do than call on each other every day and the mysterious Glamourist Mr Vincent and then try and marry them off.

On one level the book is a really light read. It's short, has few characters and a simple plot lifted straight from it's setting. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book. I really enjoyed the interaction with the characters with everyone acting proper in the correct way to behave. It's fun and although Jane is a simple character she's really easy to like. I can imagine some readers however wanting to scream at her to take some notice of what's going on around her and be proactive in her pursuit of happiness.

The treatment of Glamour is pretty clever and I really liked the descriptions of how it was manipulated. On one level the book could be viewed as 'Regency novel with a magic system tacked on' but I felt Glamour was a believable part of the setting.

There's nothing I disliked about the novel and although I wasn't amazed or enthralled by the book I'll probably read other books in the series. The nearest you get to action in the book is usually someone fainting (in fact there is a lot of swooning in the book). There's no 'big' ideas or anything particularly thought provoking but I was entertained and was left with a pleasant reading experience.