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!

Related Posts

  • Now I don’t know what to do. I loved Jonathan Strange but didn’t enjoy my requisite Jane Austen reading in school.

    I don’t have a favorite period for Historical Fantasy but it sure does seem like a lot of it takes place in Victorian England. Ever notice that?

    • Well…this is definitely more Austen than Jonathan Strange, so maybe steer clear? Pretty sure that Anglophilia is alive and well in popular fiction, haha. The regency era in particular is crazy popular!

  • I haven’t read a lot of history-inspired fantasy novels where people do fancy social talking things. But maybe I should try to branch out at some point this year — usually I’m all about that swash-and-buckle.

    • Hahahahahaha, “fancy social talking things.” I know exactly what you mean though. I think you’d quite enjoy some of the more famous sword and witty repartee novels like Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner!

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    One of the delights of this series is indeed the opportunity to see how Jane and Vincent’s relationship progresses and how their very special bonding makes them different from the period’s average married couples, while remaining firmly ensconced in the era’s social mores.

    • I absolutely love their love! Guess that’s not a surprise, but it’s been such a treat to see them work together both within and outside of conventional social relationships. Three cheers for historical fantasy!

  • I am not familiar with this series at all, but I’m glad you brought it to my attention! And might I say I LOVE her dress! You don’t often see the affects of marriage in fiction, especially romance or fantasy, so I’m sure that’s a nice element to this book. Thanks for sharing!

    • OMG I know, right? The covers for this series are all gorgeous and they feature some pretty beautiful dresses, too. Getting a peek into the after part of the HEA was definitely one of the best parts of this book for me!

  • I liked book 1 but was now all wow :/ Too bad

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Another series I wish I had time for 🙂 I do love me some Jane Austen stories.

    • Hahaha, I hear you there! Jane Austen plus magic is a winning combo, right? 🙂

  • This is the only book in the series I have read, and while I thought it was okay, I haven’t felt the urge to pick up any of the other books yet. To be honest I have not been blown away by MRK, but I’ll still keep trying her work if I come across something that sounds interesting. I like her much better for her amazing audiobook narration work 😛

    • You know, people seem to either love her writing or find it kind of “meh” so I’m not surprised to hear that this wasn’t a huge winner for you. LOL, yeah! Her audio work is sooo good. Apparently she’s also a professional puppeteer…what can’t she do?!

  • Long historical and fantasy! Yes, please! I’m definitely intrigued, the couple sounds interesting! Glad it was a good listen!

    • Historical fantasy is one of my favourite sub-genres! I really wish more authors were trying their hand at it. If you’re ever in the market for a good audiobook, Mary Robinette Kowal is a fantastic narrator!

  • I love anything Jane Austen inspired, and this sounds truly fantastic. I’ll have to check this series out. I love that they are a married couple. I always wonder about couples after their HEA, so I’m very interested in this one. And the glamour concept seems very cool! Let me go check if my library has these!

    • Who doesn’t, honestly? Austen forever! Hahaha. Me too! Especially in historical romances, when the couples haven’t actually spent that much time together before getting married. How bizarre would it be to marry a virtual stranger?! Here’s hoping these are available at your library, Nick! 🙂

  • You just convinced me to add the first book to my Goodreads! I remember seeing this around and thinking it sounded like a historical fantasy that I would really enjoy. Thanks for the wonderful review 🙂

    • Yay, I’m so glad to hear it! People who like romance novels, comedy of manners, and light fantasy are pretty much guaranteed to enjoy this series, I think. Thanks so much, Kim! 🙂

  • Oh my Jane Austen and magic = GIMME! You’re my introduction into this series — great review!

    • Isn’t that just the best hook for a novel? I’m such a sucker for Austen-inspired reads! Thanks Verushka, I hope you enjoy them. 🙂

  • I know I said this last time when you reviewed the first book but I really want to read these books. I’ve not gotten around to requesting them from my library mostly because I am lazy but I will. Before the year is finished (I need a lot of wiggle room on these things).

    Anyway, this book sounds fab. I always enjoy seeing the after in the happily ever after and it’s good to see it’s not just all smooth sailing because that would be ridiculous. But it’s also not full on crazy pants drama but instead very real drama of a couple learning to work together and experiencing problems along the way. I really want to know what the devastating blow was but I will wait to learn from reading for myself.

    Glad to see you’ve enjoyed them, you’ve even almost convinced me to listen to the audiobooks… except I am really against audiobooks for no other reason than I struggle to stay tuned in and listening to things when doing other things. The number of times I have to skip back on a podcast because I tuned out is crazy.

    • I feel like we say that on 99.9999% of each others reviews, hahaha. Every time you give something a good rating it goes onto my TBR! I hear you re: wiggle room, I’m trying to give myself lots of time to read some of the major books I’ve slated for this year. I’ve gotta make it through my physical collection sometime soon…*sobs*

      Exactly! Aside from the magic stuff, the problems that Jane and Vincent experience seem pretty normal and they’re quite relatable. The idea of working with my significant other is enough to give me a stoke, so I’m amazed that Jane and Vincent pull it off so well. Ah yes, that would be telling…you’ve gotta get these from the library and catch up!

      I used to be the same way with audiobooks, but I’ve found over the past few years that I can’t read on the bus without getting nauseous, so I listen to audiobooks on my way to and from work. And at the gym, and while doing housework, and cooking, etc. For me the key is to do something else at the same time, and not to listen to anything *too* fantastical otherwise I’d miss words and get lost!

      • Yeah and we always intend to read… it’s just there are a whole lot of books which come before it. I know that this series is available at my library, though. Having free access to books always means I’m more likely to read. And my physical collection is mostly manageable it’s all those books on my Kindle which worry me because I can’t see them to feel pressure to read.

        I will have to give audiobooks another chance… maybe next year? Or I want to try and get exercising a bit more so maybe then to motivate me not to give up after 5 minutes. I am determined to give them another try.

  • I don’t read any historical fiction really, but plan on reading Homecoming soon which does have a historical setting. You have to tell me the book is the best in your life to get me to pick up historical fiction. Great Review, and happy to hear you picking up audiobooks, I been thinking about doing the same!

    • Oh man, I’ve heard SUCH good things about that novel! The holds queue at the library is insane, haha. LOL that’s how I feel about horror novels, I can’t get into them unless they’re the best of the best Audiobooks have really helped me keep up with my reading challenges the past few years, I really like them!

  • Lynn Williams

    I should really read this series – I’ve had them on my wishlist forever! I need to get a budge on.
    Lynn 😀

    • I’m loving it so far! Tons of fun — who doesn’t love an Austen inspired story?! 😀

  • I’ve never read any Jane Austen, but I was also thinking just from your first sentence about how I’ve rarely, if ever, read about a couple after they were married, and that seems interesting. Most books just show the characters starting their relationship, and that’s it. And using magic to make/enhance art sound super cool!

    • Right? I find that so odd. I guess people think that actually *being* in a relationship is less interesting to read about than the process of getting into one? Personally I’d love to read more about established couples!

  • I’ve already told you that I’m
    not a big fan of Historical Romances. I haven’t heard about this series before.
    I’m not sure it is for me; in truth I’m not grabbed by this concept of magic in
    the form of glamour. At the same time this couple sounds like a “normal
    contemporary one” (if I can say so, lol). Though being a huge audiobook fan, I
    find it hard to pass a good audiobook. The author narrates her book? And does
    it wonderfully? I’m intrigued.

    • This series definitely isn’t for everyone, and since you’re not a fan of historicals I’d definitely steer clear if I were you. LOL, yeah, Jane and Vincent have a very modern vibe for a Regency era couple! Mary Robinette Kowal is actually a very accomplished voice actress — she’s narrated a ton of other series, too. I highly recommend the October Daye audiobooks, she narrates them beautifully!

      • She is also a professional puppeteer (I’ve checked her GR page). Thanks for the recs, I’m always on the lookout for new audiobooks. I’ll check out October Daye.