I’ve loved Jane Austen and the Regency era since my teenage years, when I devoured all of Austen’s novels, and then sought any that might evoke a similar feeling. And of course, like most of you, I also love fantasy. So when I heard Mary Robinette Kowal discussing her Regency-era fantasy novel on the Writing Excuses podcast, I was intrigued.
As a historical fantasy, Shades of Milk and Honey, the first book of the Glamourist Histories, takes place in Regency England, with a twist that changes everything: the use of glamour. With it, men and women can form visual illusions, alter appearance, enhance their homes and lives, and fashion creations of remarkable beauty.
This provides a backdrop for the tale of Jane, a homely woman of good breeding, but great talent with glamour. In contrast, her sister Melody possesses great beauty, but only a feeble ability to work glamour. This makes for an interesting dynamic between the two, as their love for one another receives a strain from jealousy and completion, especially as each seeks to find a place in the world and wrestles with societal and familial expectations of forming an excellent match.
Relationships—both between family members and with possible love interests—form a vital part of the story. Ultimately it’s a desire to protect her sister that puts Jane on the path of finding her own love and purpose in life, and I appreciated this thread of devotion and familial sacrifice that was woven through the tale.
Shades of Milk and Honey unfolds at a steady pace, through conversations in drawing rooms, picnics in the idyllic countryside, and eventful balls. It’s a light, enjoyable read with interesting relationships, a touch of humor, and a bit of intrigue, and one I’d definitely recommend to those who like historical or gaslamp fantasy.
Do you enjoy Regency-era or gaslamp fantasy? It’s one I definitely favor, and I’d love to hear if you have any you recommend.