Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

TITLE: Shades of Milk and Honey (Shades of Milk and Honey #1)
AUTHOR: Mary Robinette Kowal
PUBLICATION: 2010 by Tor Books
FORMAT: Hardcover


Jane has not the beauty of her younger sister Melody, but she has a great talent for glamour weavings. Still she resigns herself to spinsterhood. Yet can love come to one such as Jane with the appearance of new neighbors and old acquaintances?


I confess that I only got this book to read because I discovered that the book I had checked out from the library, Glamour in Glass, was its sequel.

The inside flap of the jacket calls this book Pride & Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel. I have not read the latter book in that comparison, but I am quite familiar with the Austen reference since it’s the only Austen book I have completely finished. It very much reads like a Jane Austen novel trapped in a magic world.

Glamour itself is an interesting concept, but I don’t quite understand the mechanics of it. It requires no verbal incantations, but we have these hand gestures conjuring fabulous magic from the ether. I think I would have liked a bit more explanation about it. I think because I don’t understand its magical laws that I can’t accept it quite so easily. And glamour seems to have taken the place of manual labor. When a main character is taken ill, Jane is praised for saving his life with the cold monger (doesn’t that just sound like a spreader of disease?). Wouldn’t applying cold cloths to the victim have produced as much effect as chill spells?

The sisters seem more like the sisters from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility than Pride & Prejudice, but I’m more going by the film adaptation since I haven’t finished that novel. Since the book focuses around Jane I am not sure why the author didn’t just use the first person narrative style to tell this tale. I think it would have been better. I started seeing Jane’s name every other sentence and the repetition was kind of annoying in an indescribable way. The reader sees nothing else except from her perspective so why even have third person if we’re not going to see the inner turmoil of the other characters?

I don’t usually read books like this so would that make Shades of Milk and Honey a guilty pleasure? I liked it a lot more than I feel comfortable admitting. It was finished the day after I started reading it. I can’t really say if this is a book for fans of Clarke’s novel, but if you like Austen go get this book from the library.


8 thoughts on “Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

  1. Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange?! I must get a hold of this book immediately!!

    And Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is one of my all-time favourite books, I don’t know if you want to read it or not, but I think you would like it.

  2. Sounds like an…interesting book. I confess I actually haven’t *read* any of Austen’s books, but I’ve watched most of the movies. I love Pride and Prejudice…. but I think I’m more of a Jane Eyre fan.

    Oh and I completely understand what you’re saying about the point of view. The point of view in a book really has a lot of influence, whether good or bad. Even though I haven’t read this book, I agree with you that it should’ve been written in first person if you are only cued in on Jane’s thoughts.


  3. I’ve been wanting to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel for a long time, but somehow this book doesn’t seem quite my type. Maybe your observations about PoV. PoV is really important to me.

    Do visit BTW 🙂

  4. Point of view can be such a turn off! I quite ike Jane Austen, so I should probably chek this one out. I’m actually just overjoyed I found another Loki Army member. I might have to get myself one of those buttons too!
    Juli @ Universe in Words

  5. I think I bought this as a gift for a Jane Austen fan (hard to remember because it’s wrapped and I haven’t seen the girl for awhile, so it will be a very late gift!). So I’m glad you think it’s a good pick. I haven’t actually read any Austen books myself….

    • I think I have a love-hate relationship with Austen. I want to like her more, but maybe if I read Pride & Prejudice again I’ll find more to like about the main characters instead of thinking that the side characters are the best part of the story. Heh! Or maybe I should just read her other books and see if I like them more.

      • I feel the same way about P&P. I don’t really like Elizabeth and Darcy but I liked the side characters. I liked Lady Susan and Northanger Abbey a lot more.

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