by Mary Robinette Kowal
TOR, Tom Doherty Associates, 2012. 334 pages.
A big thank-you to my sister Melanie for giving me this book, which I finally got around to reading.
I have trouble getting around to reading books I own – they don’t have a due date. I read the first book, Shades of Milk and Honey, on a plane trip, and enjoyed it, but wasn’t terribly impressed. I didn’t like the jealousy between the sisters and the tribute to Pride and Prejudice made it quite predictable.
So when I finally read this second book on a plane trip, I thought only to pass the time – and then I loved it!
Jane and her husband Vincent are newly married. They are now working together as Glamourists – people who use magic to create illusions. As the book opens, they have just finished working months on a commission for the Prince Regent.
From there, they decide to go to Belgium as a sort of honeymoon, celebrating the end of the war. Vincent is going to consult with a glamourist there who is developing a new technique that allows one to walk around a glamour and see different things from different sides. There Jane gets an idea of a way to record a glamour in glass so that you can carry it along with you. As they experiment together, they manage to record an invisibility glamour.
However, before long Jane’s activities as a glamourist are put to a halt when she becomes pregnant. The work of creating glamours is too taxing for pregnant women, and she has to sit on the sidelines for a time.
But then word comes that Napoleon has escaped his island exile and is coming back to France, via Belgium. Vincent is more embroiled in events than Jane had realized. Between spies on both sides and the military advantages of the invisibility glamour, Vincent gets into trouble, and it’s up to Jane – who can’t perform glamours – to find a way to get him out.
I thought this book was delightful. Jane’s younger sister wasn’t in it, so there was none of the jealousy or sibling rivalry I didn’t like in the first book. I liked the easy affection between the couple, with natural worries and stumbles as they figure out how to work together and merge their lives together.
This time, I didn’t expect the magic to be earth-shaking – it’s only about glamour, after all – but I think I enjoyed all the more the way it turned out to have military applications. Even before that bit, I liked the way creating glamours was presented as a skill that requires practice and study and invention – and the way Jane and Vincent both brought their talents to this work together. It was a lovely picture of a marriage – yet in a world quite different from our own. The plot wasn’t at all predictable, and I enjoyed the suspenseful elements and political intrigue – all with our heroine mixed up in the middle of it.
I’m going to have to catch up on this series!
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Source: This review is based on my own copy, a gift from my sister Melanie.
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