Friday, March 11, 2016

Series Review - The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal

Several years ago, I started reading books by Seanan McGuire and listening to the Writing Excuses podcast. These things may not seem all that related, but they are, through one Mary Robinette Kowal. She is a regular part of the Writing Excuses podcast, and she is the audiobook narrator for Seanan's October Daye series. So when I heard that she was going to be publishing her first novel, I was interested. When I heard that the premise could be summed up as "Pride and Prejudice with magic," I knew I needed to find it. I have never been happier to have a book series cross my path.

The first book of the series, Shades of Milk and Honey, sets the stage for an alternative Victorian-era England, in which there is a kind of magic known as glamour. As it deals with light and illusion, it is frequently considered a woman's art, alongside embroidery and painting. The main character, Jane, is the eldest of two sisters and the "plain" one, so she tries to content herself with a future as a spinster, living with her parents and, later, her sister and brother-in-law. This is before she meets Vincent, a professional glamourist of some renown.

I realize that this is coming across as more of a traditional romance than what I normally recommend, and that's not inaccurate. However, the characters are well-developed, and there's more to them than simply a "will they or won't they?" storyline. The later books delve into the relationship between Jane and Vincent, as they struggle with the things most married people need to figure out when they're building a life with someone after living alone. There's also some wonderful world-building with regards to how having magic may have changed key elements in history and society as a whole, which is part of the reason why I love alternate histories.

I am exceedingly fond of these books, and they have been added to my regular rotation of comfort reading.