Yay! Our hometime independent paper, The Portland Mercury not only reviewed Shades of Milk and Honey but also liked it!
Wish Jane Austen’s subtle novels had a little more action, but fewer zombies? Well, Portlander Mary Robinette Kowal’s debut novel Shades of Milk and Honey is your new manna. In this age of Regency spinning, it’s apparent Austen’s books make a well-stretched canvas for fantasy and sci-fi authors to paint upon. Kowal’s novel is a shining example of how to seamlessly blend magic with empire-waisted romance.
Aidan Moher at Dribble of Ink has a very nice review of Shades of Milk and Honey. One thing that pleases me is that he points out that this is not a typical fantasy novel. I think some people have been surprised by the structure of it, since it does hew more closely to Jane Austen than to a classic quest structure.
In the end, it’s the story of a girl navigating her way through a stuffy society and a love triangle formed by three very different bachelors. Will it appeal to all Fantasy readers? Unlikely. Will it appeal to most Fantasy readers? Also no. Will it appeal to those looking for something unusual in the genre, those looking for an easy, charming read amongst the sea of fireballs, gritty warfare and morally grey characters flooding the genre? Absolutely. Kowal is best known for her short fiction, but Shades of Milk and Honey shows that she has what it takes to produce beautiful fiction no matter the length. It’s the perfect rainy-day novel and, though Jane’s story has been told, I cannot wait to see what else Kowal has up her sleeve.
Shades of Milk and Honeyis a heartfelt and sincere homage to a figure who’s influenced perhaps more writers than Tolkien. It’s never less than delightful, and is surprisingly effective in the way MaryRob’s fantasy elements convey themes consistent with those of Austen herself.
Kowal sets her own mark on this kind of comedy of manners and creates a low-key and witty debut novel, one that succeeds through understated humor and sprightly prose, rather than through absurd juxtapositions of the historical and the supernatural.
In what may be one of my favorite reviews, the English Tea Store has been having Jackie Gamber, a lover of both tea and science fiction, suggest pairings of novels and teas.
Here’s a taste of what she says…
English Tea Store brand Ginger Tea is a classic tea with a twist. The high-quality black tea leaves brew into a rich, golden liquid just right for polite tea society, yet the mild ginger brings a hint of glamor and heat to the overall sipping experience.It’s similar to what you’ll find in reading Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey…
I am all astonished. The Jane Austen Centre in Bath has a review of Shades of Milk and Honey on their website AND wrote to let me know that they were planning on sending the review out with their newsletter.
Let me repeat that: The Jane Austen Centre. Likes. My. Novel.
John Ottinger writes about the book in detail and wraps up by saying:
Shades of Milk and Honey could easily fit into Austen’s canon, except of course for the inclusion of magic. Kowal has captured both the style and content of an Austen novel, adding her own speculative fiction twist, and readers who enjoyed such novels as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell will find this novel appealing as well. Readers of period romances have a crossover novel into the speculative fiction genre, and casual rather than critical Austen readers have a book that hits all the high points of Austen’s dialogue and plotting while still having its own identity. Highly recommended reading for everyone and one I suspect will garner award nominations from several genres.
So you may imagine my further delight when Laura Boyle, who edits the online magazine, let me know that this month’s issue was quietly themed around ideas from my novel, including an article on what Tableux Vivants were like in the real world’s Regency. I didn’t make them up, I just reimagined them withglamour.
Over on the Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia, there’s a chance to win two copies of Shades of Milk and Honey, thanks to celi.a who seems to have fallen in love with my novel. Here’s how her review starts off:
I found myself proclaiming to my friends that I’d found ‘the perfect book’ yesterday. I didn’t mean that it was THE perfect book for all time and all people. I did mean that I’d found the book that feels as if it was written expressly for me, because it fits my tastes perfectly. And luckily for the rest of you, it’s also well-written, so there’s a chance that you’ll find it just as enchanting as I did.
She goes on to talk about why she likes it AND THEN offers to give away two copies. Here’s the end of the review with the giveaway details.
Recommended for: historical fiction and subtle fantasy fans, Regency-era devotees, readers who view Austen as the comfort food of the book world, and anyone looking for a beautiful read with strong art overtones and a classic feel.
I’m giving away two copies of this book, because I loved it, and I want other people to love it too. Also, when I tried to buy it at Borders I found that they’re not carrying it in stores. Travesty!
Leave a comment on this post with a word or phrase that makes you think of milk or honey. Synonyms, colors, associations, whatever you want – write it down!
Please include a method of contact. Giveaway is open internationally. Comments will close on September 15 at 11:59pm EST, and I will notify the randomly selected winners via email.
The Eugene Weekly has a nice review of Shades of Milk and Honey that manages to talk about the book without being spoilery.
Kowal has a good time with the tropes and tweaks of this sort of story, making both sisters sympathetic and tossing a few obstacles into the way, but Shades sparkles to particular life when its characters are working, thinking about or discussing glamour — the way it works, the relevance of passion, the power of a muse.
This is what a book crush is all about, this finding of a volume that is your perfect fit, the book you’ve been waiting for without ever knowing that you were waiting for it. This is one of those books that, upon finishing the last page, I closed the book, breathed a deep dreamy sigh, and floated off to bed on clouds of joy and wonder. And I’m afraid there is no way that I can explain to you why I’m so overjoyed to have found this book and why I occasionally have to clasp it to my bosom and twirl about the room in happiness. But I’ll try.
Take Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and add a dash of magic and you have this delightful story by Mary Kowal. This is the story of two sisters, Jane, who is more magically talented, and Melody, a stunning beauty, and their quest to find love and stability. Both girls hope to marry well despite their lack of inheritance, and are pursued by various suitors. They are quickly embroiled into the intricacies of their neighbors’ lives, and the resulting series of events is sure to entrance the reader. For those who love reading Jane Austen’s books, this will at least temporarily satisfy the craving. A touch of magic inserted into the story is enough to enhance, but not overwhelm the story line. A quick, light read, with characters that the reader will feel right at home with.
Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing, says very nice things!
Shades of Milk and Honey is the hotly anticipated debut novel from Mary Robinette Kowal, who has already made a name for herself in science fiction with a series out outstanding short stories. It’s a Regency drawing-room romance, told in pitch-perfect style, with one important difference: these mannered and well-bred nobles are able to do magic. By conjuring “folds from the ether,” well-brought-up men and women are able to create optical illusions — or even breezes and smells — though such workings are quite exhausting and too much conjuring can leave the practicioner comatose, brain-damaged or dead.
If Jane Austen had written a fantasy novel, Shades of Milk and Honey would have been the result. Written with painstaking attention to detail, Kowal’s prose is serenely evocative of the time period, and the fantastic elements are a seamless fit. The characterization is extremely well done and Jane is a sympathetic, strong and intelligent heroine whose devotion to her family trumps nearly every other concern. Give this one a try!
In an alternate Regency England where magic exists, young women practice manipulating glamour in their quests to land eligible bachelors. Both Jane and her sister Melody are well-practiced in this womanly art, and Jane’s ability in particular is remarkable. However, it is Melody who is fair of face and who gets most of the masculine attention while Jane, at the age of 28, is on the shelf.
When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is up to no good and is getting into position to take advantage of her, she pushes her skills to their very limits and, quite accidentally, finds her very own happy ever after. (TOR, Aug., 304 pp., $24.99)
Readers will be disappointed only when they finish this enchanting story, which is suffused with genteel charm. The author’s judicious and effective changes to aspects of daily life clearly communicate how similar but different this world is from ours. With the grace of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, a touch of classic fairy tale magic, and an action-packed ending, this debut novel by an award-winning short story writer will appeal to fans of Jane Austen, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Susannah Clarke, and even Jasper Fforde.
Here’s the problem: Mary Robinette Kowal is too good. Not only is she famous, and gorgeous, and brilliant, she’s also a really good writer. This cannot be allowed. I tolerated it before, when it was just award-winning short stories, but her new book Shades of Milk and Honey is too much: clever and simple at the same time, with an unerring sense of historical yes-that’s-exactly-right-ness, and a mastery of craft and form belying the fact that she, like her characters, pretty much created the form out of nothing. To write a book I enjoyed this much, in a manner so talented I could never hope to recreate it, can only be considered a personal insult. Next time I see you, Mary, you’re dead.
He goes on with the review which, besides being very funny, exactly gets what I was trying to do with the novel. The quibbles that he has are, I think, perfectly fair which also pleases me.
(Tor Books – July 14 2020) Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon. The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and […]