Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Date of Publication: August 3, 2010
Formats Available: Hardcover, Paperback, E-book
Buy This Book: Amazon
Synopsis: Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a version of Regency England where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.
Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
I've never quite read a book like Shades of Milk and Honey; on one hand I was completely enchanted by the world Kowal had created, and on the other I finished this novel feeling a little unsatisfied, like something just hadn't quite added up in the end. Even though I enjoyed this novel so much while I was reading it sitting down to write this review opened my eyes a little bit to how many shortcomings this book really had.
Let me start with what I loved about this book, the number one thing being the writing. Kowal had a absolutely beautiful writing style and her style did an excellent job pulling me into the Regency world full of magic she had created. I loved the inclusion of glamour and I was fascinated by how the characters manipulated it. I also really enjoyed the personalities of each of the characters, Jane is the cliche underdog that we all end up rooting for because we all see a little part of us in her. Likewise, her sister was thee stereotypical beauty who appears to have it all, but really doesn't. Even though both of those characters have been done a million times it just works, stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason and Kowal used that to her best advantage.
The plot left me with some mixed feelings. While I was reading I wasn't bothered by the fact that most of the novel is consumed with the daily activities of Jane and her family. However, when I sat down to write this review I realized just how little happened in this novel. The end is exciting, and even though I saw the big finish coming a mile away, the ending had me glued to the page and I loved the action and excitement. However, other than those few pages at the end not much else happened other than dialogue between characters. I will give Kowal points for keeping me so engrossed in a novel where not much happens, but I just felt a little cheated by the time I got to the end of the novel.
My biggest complaint about this book was the "romance". It feels as though Kowal tacked the romance on at the end of the novel as an afterthought, without adding any threads of it in the beginning of the novel. I was shocked by the revelation of romance and I wasn't a fan of how fast everything moves after that. I felt as though Jane and her love interest had almost no interaction prior to the big revelation and when the truth finally came out it felt so random and unnecessary.
Overall I was intrigued enough by this novel to continue with the next couple books in the series but I also finished this novel feeling a little unsatisfied. Hopefully the next books in the series live up to the potential I saw in present in this one, Kowal has the ability to write a fantastic novel and I hope that the next books live up to how good she could be.