Thursday, July 31, 2014

Glamour in Glass

Hello! Thanks to everyone who is reading this first review for my new project "Literature is Not Dead": Glamour in Glass
Today I will be talking about awesome worldbuilding, Jane Austen, and female characters as I review Mary Robinette Kowal's
 *edit* Tissues alert! This book is sad!
After Shades of Milk and Honey debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass follows the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue. 
In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it. 
Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison…and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country's war.
Why did I read this book? Well Mrs. Kowal is one of the Writing Excuses podcasters and I am totally addicted to that show. It has taught me so much about writing and the fiction market. If I had to pick one podcaster who has taught me the most I would have to pick Mrs. Kowal.  She has such an articulate way of making you understand the tools of writing without laying down set rules.  A couple of weeks ago I read her Hugo award winning story For Want of a Nail and ended up crying over an AI {and I didn't cry about Wall-e even} so I knew she was good.

So did I like Glass? The answer is yes! And here's why.

First of all I need to talk about the world. It was incredible. I felt immersed from the first chapter. This book takes place during the Regency. And it felt like the Regency! the character behaved with Regency manners, had Regency opinions and were not constantly 'ahead of the times" the best thing about the world is that it was completely immersive. I didn't spend the entire time thinking "This is so well done" instead of drawing attention to her worldbuilding skills Mrs. Kowal let me just live in her world. it was only after I was done reading the book that I noticed just how well written the setting and culture was.

That said there was one part of the world that I couldn't stop fangirling about even while I was reading it. And that was the magic.  I tend to be kind of picky about the fantasy I read, I like it to be part of the world and indiscriminate, more like extra science then magic. This book fit that to a T. The glamour was based on the old scientific theory of ether and anyone could use it. It was like an art, some were better than others at it but in world it wasn't magic. Just a fact of life.

And I love that. I love reading about things that aren't real. That get my imagination spinning, and this book let me do that without making it all "magic-y". It was like extra cool physics!

And GLASSBLOWING! There was glassblowing!!!!!!! I can watch glassblowing for hours and I have only ever read one other book that satisfied this obsession of mine. 

It's mesmerizing. 

But enough fangirling about Glamour. Let's move on. 

The twists and ending were well done. I guessed one of the twists but it actually made the book more enjoyable instead of less. And there was another twist that I didn't get until half a page before it was revealed which is what I like to call "the sweet spot". I actually put the book down and cheered I was so pleased with how artfully she had tricked me. 

Now characters. I fell in love with Jane and Vincent. I loved their relationship and their character arcs. I adored the way Vincent was more than a brooding handsome artist and jane was more than a "strong woman". 

Speaking of strong women can we talk for a moment about how awesome Jane's character arc was? During the book Jane has to deal with pregnancy. Because of how tiring working with glamour is Jane couldn't practice her art while pregnant. She was torn between frustration and love for the child inside her. I loved the way this was handled. Children are a gift but no one can deny that they change a person's life. reading this book I found myself wondering what it would be like to find out I was having a child and then realize that it meant I couldn't write. I think I would be just as frustrated and conflicted as Jane.

Jane was a woman who thought for herself. But she didn't go around acting with impropriety and shocking everyone. She was firm that her husband trust her and include her in his life and thoughts but she also respected him. She despised the insipidity of society but she didn't burn her corset and shout from the roof that she was a free woman and didn't need no man. She was strong without bing obnoxious, independent without being a warrior princess. 

And can we just have a round of applause for how Vincent was handled? He made mistakes but he was never portrayed as a chauvinist fool.  They were both human and lovable and I found myself really really liking this side character Mathieu. He was awesome. So were Yves and his mother.  

As to pacing this book kept me turning the pages, loath to put it down but there were no cheap tricks and ever promise of action or tension was fulfilled. 

The writing style was my only quibble. It was written with a Jane Austen influence which I loved but occasionally the narrative switched from old-fashioned telling to modern showing so quickly that it jarred me.  

But all in all it was a lovely, enjoyable book full of wit, excitement, and wonderful characters. I would definitely read it again.

Four out of five stars! Mrs. Kowal is a wonderful writer. I can't wait to read the rest of the books in this series.
Do you have any weird obsessions like watching glassblowing?

Don't forget to be awesome!


Ashley said...

This sounds like a cool book! I'm really curious about the bubbles! Have you read the first book?

Extra physics!!! That's so cool!! (Nice joke ;)

Glassblowing is really cool!

I like how she was strong and independent but not to an extreme.

A page-turner!!!

Umm weird obsessions. I have several, but I can only think of a few right now: watching tumbling, spelling (yeah that's weird), memorizing stuff, and languages.

Anne-girl said...

No I haven't but I hope to soon and I'll review it here. I have it ordered form the library. I understood the book just fine without having read the first one.

Anne-girl said...

I like languages too,I just prefer making up my own to learning new ones.

Ashley said...

Cool! I like books that you can understand without having to read them in order!

Making up your own languages sounds fun, but hard :D

Wilbur said...

Oooh I am going to try this. That and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And Jane Eyre. And... Sigh...

Ashley G. said...

Sounds like a great book. :) I will have to give it a try if I see it in the library. I love fantasy that has that "extra science" kind of magic. It's not exactly magic. Just another part of the world. Those books are the best. :)

As for obssessions? I know I have probably an influx of them. But I can only recall a few. I like plaid. I could watch old musicals (especially ones with tap dancing) everyday. And I like Sherlock. :)

Anne-girl said...

Yay for liking Sherlock! I tend to prefer newer musicals like Les Mis and Phantom but I do love Singing in the Rain

Marie said...

I really want to read this now, it sounds so good! The science kind of magic, YES. The Thor movies were my first real introduction to that (although the Elves in the Lord of the Rings could fit into the category as well) and I like it so much! Weird obsessions? Well...if holding paintings up close to my face and staring at them for a long time and generally basking in awe at their beauty counts....and of course British Television. I suppose Doctor Who is certainly a weird obsession.

Anne-girl said...

British TV is not a weird obsession. The people who don't like British TV are the weird ones. Honestly how do they live with no Period Dramas worth watching or beautiful Moffat fueled shows?