Review: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal (Galmourist Histories #2)

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Publisher: Tor Books on April 10, 2012

Audio: Mary Robinette Kowal for Audible Frontiers

Source: Purchased

Mary Robinette Kowa’s Glamourist Histories series is a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence.

  

Jane and Vincent are back in action in GLAMOUR IN GLASS, enjoying married life, using magic to make beautiful art, and maybe even turning the tides of a war. If you enjoy the works of Jane Austen, BBC period dramas, or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, then this series is for you!

For their honeymoon, Jane and Vincent travel from England to Belgium where they plan to visit an old glamourist friend of Vincent’s. Jane is excited but nervous: she’s sure to learn new techniques for working glamour…but she’s never been to the continent. Unfortunately her fears aren’t totally unfounded, because while Napoleon may be in exile on Elba, there are still many Bonapartists in Belgium. I loved reading about the competing political viewpoints, from those who felt that Napoleon was their best bet to those who were ardent Belgian nationalists.

It was also really interesting to see the differences between English and French social culture through Jane’s eyes, especially as they applied to the role of ladies. While certain freedoms of French culture shock her, Jane is pleasantly surprised to learn that women are not immediately excluded from political after dinner discussions. Needless to say, I loved these sections!

While the couple is in Belgium to visit friends and experiment with glamour, it quickly became clear to me that there was a third purpose for their trip…one that Vincent refused to share with Jane. Since I figured this out so quickly, I was a bit impatient for Jane to wise up, but it was interesting to see how the pair navigated difficulties in their marriage. It was really refreshing to get a peek behind the curtain of the “after” part of the happily ever after, since it’s rare to see how things work out for couples after they inevitably get married in historical novels. Despite Vincent’s attempts at keeping secrets, I think that he and Jane are really good for each other both personally and professionally.

That’s right, y’all: they work glamour together professionally too! A type of illusion magic, glamour is used primarily to enhance art and music. The Vincents are two of the most accomplished glamourists in England, and have even worked for the King. But in GLAMOUR IN GLASS, they’re forced to grapple with the reality that glamour can be used for martial as well as artistic pursuits. Once this is discovered, the stakes become incredibly high and they suffer a devastating blow as a result. I won’t say too much about that except that I was shocked and really saddened for both Jane and Vincent. It’s clearly going to have repercussions throughout the rest of the series.

As always, I highly recommend the audiobook versions for this series. Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal herself (also the “voice” of October Daye), the audio is really well done and the narration adds a lot of emotional weight to Jane’s otherwise quite emotionally restrained POV. Kowal is definitely one of my favourite audiobook narrators now.

Historical fantasy at its finest!

Have you read any fantasy novels inspired by classic literature? What’s your favourite historical period to read about? Let me know in the comments!

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