Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass continues following the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.
In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it.
Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison . . . and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country’s war.
You can read an excerpt here.
At last I’ve figured out how to describe this lovely series: cozy fantasy.
Glamour in Glass is a quiet delight, a story that takes us on a gentle tour of drawing rooms and Continental countryside as the newly married Jane and Vincent navigate the beginning of their partnership and a trip to war-torn Europe. This book remains faithful to the spirit of Austen, being once again an enticing blend of society, manners and romance, and yet at the same time Kowal stretches her legs and saunters away from pure Austen homage to explore new territory, both historical and geographical, not to mention she reveals more of her enchantingly unique magic system, which is once again a subtle yet pervasive (and altogether irresistible) blend of Regency and fantasy. From first to second book, the foundation remains the same, but this time around there’s a touch more intrigue, a dash more politics and a sprinkle more action, and it is altogether entirely enchanting. I was completely taken in by this book’s charms.
Now, yes, in terms of pacing, this book definitely belongs in the cozy category. There is something very sedate and relaxing about it, rather like a scenic stroll. It devotes entire chapters to dinner parties, to glamour techniques, and to glass blowing experiments, and yet somehow it all manages to be effortlessly entertaining – even when Jane and Vincent were involved in lengthy discussions of new glamour folds, I never once lost interest. Still the pacing does rather abruptly pick up towards the end of the novel, as the times take a turn towards war, but frankly I loved the peril. It led to Jane confronting a whole new set of challenges, and watching her rise to the occasion in her own particular way was wonderful to behold. This is not a high octane read, to be sure, but it is an entertaining one.
I will admit, however, that there are some rather convenient developments to this story. The magical discovery that later plays a crucial role is a tad McGuffin-y, and the tension between Jane and Vincent felt a bit forced at times, as the two of them so clearly adore each other, but honestly I never could really bring myself to mind overmuch – I was too busy enjoying the show. Yes, there might not be a ton going on beneath the surface of this story, and Jane’s emotional hardships come and go so quickly as to perhaps leave not as much of an impression on her character as one might wish, but this book is just so sweet and lovely it kept me firmly under its spell. I just enjoyed reading it, plain and simple.
In the end, Glamour in Glass is a lovely portrait of time, place and magic. With distinct personalities, gorgeous countryside, a touch of intrigue, and a very sweet romance, this book is just a treat – and I am already very much looking forward to the next one.
Byrt Grade: A
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
This is a wonderful book…Jane is a superb heroine and her insistence that her marriage truly be between equals is a real highlight.
While Kowal’s focus shifts somewhat abruptly from magical-scientific exploration to espionage adventure, the setting and the intricate techniques of glamour manipulation continue to intrigue, and the thoughtful portrayal of the difficulties of Jane and Vincent’s affectionately nontraditional partnership is thoroughly engaging.
…I’ll go with my gut and give this one five stars. Good language, fresh story, an interesting world, and a great main character with a great voice.