Shades of Milk and Honey Series – Mary Robinette Kowal

Books: 1: Shades of Milk and Honey, 2: Glamour in Glass, 3: Without a Summer, 4: Valour and Vanity, 5: Of Noble Family

Author: Mary Robinette Kowal

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Plot: 1 – Based off Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, but with magic, it centers around two sisters, Jane and Melody. Magic, called glamour, is a main part of society and used to embellish houses and create moving artwork. Jane is plain but excellent with magic. Melody is considered pretty but not as good with magic. The sisters meet Mr. Vincent, a glamourist (someone who works with magic) who is making a glamourial (a painting mad with magic) for a neighbor. Jane fines Mr. Vincent’s glamour wonderful, but his personality is cold and aloof. No one knows about him other than Mr. Vincent is an excellent glamourist. Melody catches the eye of a neighbor’s son. But it is heard that the son is courting someone else. Why is he courting two people? Who is Mr. Vincent really? Will anyone get a happy ending? Or will everything end in ruin?

2 – Surprise, surprise everything works out for Jane and Mr. Vincent. For their honeymoon, they travel to a little town in Belgium. They see an old friend of Mr. Vincent who has a school there. While there, Jane and Mr. Vincent learn about different techniques for glamour. Jane discovers a new way to work with glamour. Her and Mr. Vincent work in secret to perfect it. While they are perfecting the technique, Napoleon escapes from Elba. Belgium is thrown into turmoil. The people are divided, siding with Napoleon or against him. Everyone is against the English. Should they flea back to England? Should they stay and fight?

3 – Jane and Mr. Vincent return to England and take a job in London. They take Melody with them so she can be out in society. Their employer is an Irish Catholic. Jane and Mr. Vincent, and Melody, are Protestant. Sparks fly between Melody and Jane and Mr. Vincent’s employer’s son. They soon start courting. But the people of London are looking for someone to blame. The year has been unusually cold and doesn’t show signs of warming up. They start blaming cold mongers (glamourists who specifically make things cold) for making the weather cold. Jane and Mr. Vincent know this to be false, it is impossible for glamourists to control the weather. Coldmongers are also looking to be treated fairer and be given better wages and working conditions. They want to protest. But Jane is overcautious and overworried about Melody when she learns the man she is courting is in charge of a coldmonger’s protest and leading a march in secret. Why is the march secret? Is there someone else behind it?

4 – Jane and Mr. Vincent join Jane’s family on a trip to Italy. The couple separates from the family in Venice. Soon after parting ways, the couple are attacked by pirates, leaving them penniless upon their arrival at Venice. A older gentleman offers them help and lodging until they can get back on their feet. Jane and Mr. Vincent start wandering around the city. They are looking for someone to help perfect their secret technique they started on in Belgium. A few days later, the police show up at their lodging saying they owe people money. At first they are confused, saying their host has taken care of everything. The police prove otherwise. Jane and Mr. Vincent go to get their things, only to realize their glamour project has disappeared. Who has taken it? Who is behind the fraud? How will Jane and Mr. Vincent find the culprit? Will they get everything back?

5 – Again, Jane and Mr. Vincent return to England. Their return is short lived when they learn that Mr. Vincent’s father has died. One of Mr. Vincent’s brothers pleads with him to manage their father’s estate in Antigua (a small island in the Caribbean). Reluctantly, they accept. Upon their arrival, they see that the estate is running poorly. The overseer has made few repairs and the repairs that he’s made have been cheap, ready to break again, easily. He runs the estate with an iron fist. The estate still has slaves and they are treated very poorly. Mr. Vincent and the overseer continually butt heads. While they are at the estate, Jane learns that she is pregnant. As she cannot use glamour, she starts to write a book comparing techniques between English and African glamour. But someone is watching her and Mr. Vincent’s every move. They are trying to undo whatever her and Mr. Vincent are trying to do. Who is watching them? Why are they trying to sabotage them? Why? Can they help the slaves and the estate?

Rating: 4.0 – realistic relationships, well worked out magic system, lots of historical facts, sappy moments, lots of twists and turns

Opinion: This is a fun, entertaining historical fiction, fantasy series. It has a magical system with rules and regulations. It is not limitless, which makes it more believable and requires energy for magic use. The relationships in this series are also believable. The couples fight and disagree. They storm off and get grumpy with each other. Slowly, they start to talk about their problems and talk about what happened, how to fix the problem, and compromise and try to see each other’s sides. One thing that bugged me about the series that some things are dropped for some time, then picked up again. The characters seem to forget about certain things, then remember them again. A couple times I had to do a ‘wait, what? I thought we were going that direction?’ I enjoyed this book because of the realistic uses for magic, the history, and the romance. If you’re looking for a good series to read that with realistic magic in a real world setting, I’d suggest this series.

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