Completion Date: August 26, 2011
Reason for Reading: Fun!
The fantasy novel you've always wished Jane Austen had writtenI have always been a fan of fantasy and this book has been getting a lot of attention lately. It sounded interesting and it was being compared to Jane Austen. I might not be a huge fan of the books that she actually wrote, but I do appreciate her writing style. I was curious what the publishing world considered 'Jane Austen writing fantasy.' First of all, wouldn't it have been wonderful if Jane Austen had written fantasy? That would be much more exciting than the fact she wrote period. Her works have lasting power, though, and I applaud her for her talent and success.
Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.
Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane's skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody's suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
I have been mentioning lately that I really enjoy the circus idea in books. I say idea because this book actually reminds me a lot of the tents that were made for the circus in The Night Circus. This is a society where people have magical abilities and essentially are able to manipulate their world in order to create illusions. When I read The Night Circus I immediately wanted to visit the circus. When I read this book, I spent the entire both wishing I had the abilities of Jane in this book, and if I couldn't, I wanted to see the wonderful things that she both created and experienced during the course of this novel. They can take a painting and give it movement, create a forest in your bedroom, create an entire scene for enjoyment by all, and many other magical and wonderful things.
The main character in this book is Jane. I may not have read all of Jane Austen's novels, but this book is easily based off of a love of them. The romance qualities remind me a bit of the romances that happen in Austen's novels, but with enough originality that it doesn't seem like anything is being copied. I think it is the spirit of the book more than anything, but also the spirit of the character. Jane is plain looking, she believes, and has basically given in to the fact that she will be a spinster. That doesn't stop her from having attractions to the men in her world. She just assumes it will not be returned. Her sister is the real beauty, but she is actually jealous of Jane's ability to create illusions. It leads to interesting interactions through the course of the book.
I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't perfect, though. I am not a huge fan of the authors writing style. There was something that prevented me from getting entirely wrapped up in the book. I really liked Jane, though; as well as the world that has been created, the magic, and how it all works very well well for the time period.
If you get a chance to read this book I recommend it!
This review was cross-posted at The Written World.