Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Clearly. It's one of the few to which I've given more than a 3-star rating for some time. I'm going to admit something here which may seem blasphemous, but I've never actually read a Jane Austen book. I've seen all the movies (both the direct adaptations and those adaptations which were a little more obscurely veiled), but I've never actually read the books.

I first heard about Mary Robinette Kowal in an episode of Writing Excuses, a podcast developed which discusses writing techniques and writing life. She described her book as "Jane Austen with magic." I was intrigued, but the time period of Austen's books (and, by extension, this book) doesn't intrigue me. I simply cannot wrap my head around the pomp and circumstance of propriety like this.

That being said, I've had this book shelved on my #TRB list for almost a year. I've ready several of Mary's short stories, and enjoyed them, but getting into an Austen-esque novel seemed a daunting task. One I wasn't sure I wanted to undertake. However, since my goal this year is to read through as many of the science-fiction and fantasy classics upon which the genres were founded, I've already suffered through a relentless torrent of dry and underwhelming books. One more couldn't hurt. Right?

I cannot describe how relieved I was that this book was so intriguing and so well written. It wasn't dry or boring at all. It took me a little bit to get into the world of the story, to understand the propriety, to really wrap my head around the magic and root for the main character, Jane. But, by the time Mister Vincent is introduced, I was hooked and desperate to know not only what would happen to Jane, but I also needed to know what would happen to Jane's sister and Jane's friend and neighbor and the (view spoiler) they had been set upon.

This book truly was Jane Austen with magic. The magic is a part of the world, a part of life. It is integral to the climax but is not the sole means upon which the story was to be resolved. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Too often it's the cool magic which must be used in order for the characters to affect a favorable outcome. The magic was there, but it wasn't the magic which saved the day.

Anyway, I don't want to give too much away. All I can say is this: I would highly recommend this book to anyone, and it has made me want to give Jane Austen herself a try. Thanks, Mary.

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