Valour and Vanity
Acclaimed fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal has enchanted many fans with her beloved novels featuring a Regency setting in which magic–known here as glamour–is real. In Valour and Vanity, master glamourists Jane and Vincent find themselves in the sort of a magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean’s Eleven.
After Melody’s wedding, the Ellsworths and Vincents accompany the young couple on their tour of the continent. Jane and Vincent plan to separate from the party and travel to Murano to study with glassblowers there, but their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs while en route. It is their good fortune that they are not enslaved, but they lose everything to the pirates and arrive in Murano destitute.
Jane and Vincent are helped by a kind local they meet en route, but Vincent is determined to become self-reliant and get their money back, and hatches a plan to do so. But when so many things are not what they seem, even the best laid plans conceal a few pitfalls. The ensuing adventure is a combination of the best parts of magical fantasy and heist novels, set against a glorious Regency backdrop.
Kowal’s latest entry in the series (after Without a Summer) has a very original and subtle magic system, but its real strength lies in the way it evokes the Regency period. The relationship between Jane and Vincent continues to grow stronger, as they learn to lean on each other.
Kowal continues her creative Regency-set Glamourist Histories series with a clever, captivating plot that culminates in a magical heist storyline. Before we get there, though, we are treated to a touching examination of a loving marriage under duress and the connections and collaborations these extraordinary partners must create and reaffirm with each other and those around them in order to thrive.
Combining history, magic and adventure, the book balances emotional depth with buoyant storytelling.
—Kirkus - Starred Review
When it comes to writing historical fantasy that is at once absorbing, exciting and incredibly moving, Kowal is in a class by herself. Just as Kowal’s previous book, Without a Summer, blended elements of fantasy with a very real depiction of class struggle, Valour and Vanity balances the adventure of a heist with a poignant portrayal of sudden poverty. Kowal’s skill for writing characters who have fantastic abilities and yet remain deeply human, as susceptible to their own insecurities as anyone you or I know, is just part of what makes her one of the best talents in fantasy.