My rating: 4 of 5 stars!
Shades of Milk and Honey is a beautiful, skillfully crafted Regency era romance written in the style of Jane Austen . . . with magic.
In Mary Robinette Kowal’s Regency era England young ladies of quality learn the subtle art of Glamour (magic) alongside other fine arts such as painting and playing the piano forte. Unlike typical magical adventure tales where the magic itself becomes a tool for power and influence, Shades of Milk and Honey is a classic period Romance, balancing passion and propriety while delicately weaving Glamour by threads and folds into the fabric of daily life. Here, magic is a synonymous with refined society, not with power and domination.
Shades of Milk and Honey is a delightful read, full of descriptive settings, elegant formal language and an ample amount of swooning. Kowal takes great care to establish a truly period piece, authentically rendering her characters and their sensibilities and even going so far as using period spelling in her prose.
In true Regency style, Kowal’s characters keep most of their true feelings and desires hidden from one another. Thus, while her characters strive to maintain propriety, seeking to express their better natures, the reader is free to enjoy all the rising dramatic tension resulting from their continually unresolved internal and external struggles. Thankfully, Kowal doesn’t weaken her story by appealing to modern sensibilities. There are no easy, emotionally cathartic shortcuts here. But fear not! Passion and Glamour do ultimately collide in an exciting climax and an emotionally satisfying dénouement; an ending I suspect Jane Austen herself would be proud of.
I’ve already read and enjoyed many of Mary Robinette Kowal’s short stories. Now, after reading Shades of Milk and Honey (her debut novel), I can’t wait to see what she’ll draw next from the ether of her imagination.
(At the time of this review Shades of Milk and Honey has been nominated for a RT Bookreview Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Fantasy Novel.)