Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It's A Cruel Summer

I think I can fully blame Mary Robinette Kowal for my recent obsession with the Regency era. I'm usually 100% Victoriana, but her gorgeously written series about magic users in Regency England has taken over my brain. The series, now known as the Glamourist Histories, tells the story of Jane Ellsworth. She is a beautifully realized character and one I've found I identify strongly with. Jane Austen herself would have been proud to come up with Kowal's Jane.

The third book in the series, Without A Summer, was released  just a few days ago and it's just as delightful as the previous adventures. Jane and her stoic, Byronic husband Vincent are finally settling down after the Napoleonic Wars. The misery and drama of the last book, Glamour in Glass, are far behind them. This has given Jane time to focus on family. One family member in particular. An invitation to create a special mural in London prompts Jane to take her younger sister Melody with them.

I rather hated Melody in the first two books. She reminds me completely of my own younger sister, and the relationship she had with Jane hit extremely close to home since it so resembled my sister and I. I could fully empathize with Jane over the way Melody treated her, as well as how others treated her as a result. Melody is a great beauty, charming and winsome. In comparison, Jane feels plain and awkward. I can so relate to this. Oh Jane, it's like you're me, if I lived in 1812. Even after finding the love of her life, a man who matched her in both stubbornness and magical skill, Jane still feels painfully plain around her sister. Jane, as we say in 2013, I know that feel.

Without A Summer takes place during the coldest summer England has seen in many, many years. A special group of glamourists (the term for people who can use certain magic in the books) called coldmongers are blamed, even though there is precious little evidence against them. A riot is brewing and Jane and Vincent seem powerless to stop it. While the plight of the coldmongers gets worse, Melody is growing fond of an unsuitable gentleman. Jane has her hands full trying to keep tabs on her sister as well as help the coldmongers. While Jane is preoccupied with Melody, Vincent has family problems of his own. His completely evil father has come back out of the woodwork and is set on tearing Vincent's new life completely to pieces. God, did I hate him. He was a fantastic villain. He was politely vile and conniving.

Jane and Vincent start to lose control and things come to a head when the coldmongers march on Parliament. I wish I could give you more details, dear reader, but I don't want to spoil a single thing! The book was just too amazing and you have to read it.

Mrs. Kowal, from her website
Kowal's writing is impressive and completely immersive. It truly feels as if it was written in the time of Jane Austen. The language is strongly evocative of that time period and carefully researched. You can tell that such care went into every single word. The world Kowal has created is unique and beautiful, full of delicate magic and memorable, lifelike characters who light up every page. I simply can not get enough of these books and I'm always so sad when I get to the end.

If you haven't yet discovered these lovely books, I implore you to add them to your reading lists. They are absolutely stunning books, with wonderfully rendered characters. I find myself smiling as I read them, marveling over the world, the magic and the language. Kowal even got me to read and enjoy Jane Austen and fall head over heels for the Regency period! That is no small feat, considering I wrote a paper in college entitled "Why I Hate Jane Austen". (We're all good now, Miss Austen. No hard feelings?)

Happily, it seems there is a fourth book planned and I will have to find a way to be patient. I'm not good at being patient. I shall take a page out of Jane's book and try to behave as a Regency lady and not claw at my screen in agony as I wait for the next volume. See? She's a good influence on me!

Without A Summer is available now. Mary Robinette Kowal's first two books in the series, Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass are also available and they are the highest quality of awesome.   
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  1. This was the first book where I liked Melody. She was finally more than the pretty but bratty sister. I loved when she said "he talks to me like I'm not beautiful" (paraphrasing here).
    And Vincent's father was just HORRIBLE.