Following good stories wherever they lead
A light, Austen-era novel of manners with a touch of magic, centering on two sisters and the struggle to find one’s way amid suitors, dowries, and deceptions.
Rating: 3 out of 5 mugs
If you’re in the mood for: Regency manners and magic, with questions of art and being true to oneself — and a dash of romance, of course.
Jane knows that she isn’t the pretty sister.
She’s seen the way gentlemen look at Melody; the way they cluster around her at the balls, vying for her attention. No one strives for her dance card with that level of vigor, and she cannot honestly blame them. She knows that her hair is lank and brown, no match for Melody’s blonde curls. Her nose is overlong; her face tends towards the severe. She cannot charm the way that her sister does, effortlessly captivating.
But Jane can weave glamours better than anyone else in the neighborhood.
Or at least she could, until Mr. Vincent arrived. The accomplished glamourist is the talk of the household, and Jane is eager to examine his work. When they arrive at the showing, however, Jane is struck by the man’s brusque manner. He seems offended; he borders on rude.
In addition to bearing this new slight, Jane must endure the sight of Melody capturing Mr. Dunkirk’s attentions — a gentleman of distinction and judgment. A gentleman whom Jane herself admires. If only he could return her regard…but that is too much to expect.
An accomplished woman may draw praise, but only a beautiful woman inspires affection.
Jane knows it is foolish to hope that she might capture any man’s interest beyond her abilities to elevate a household. Still, it is no small thing to stifle one’s heart.
A charming Regency-era tale embroidered with magic, this book is ideal for anyone suffering pangs of Jane Austen withdrawal. Kowal navigates the intricacies of society manners with a light touch, drawing us in to Jane’s world with a minimum of distractions. The addition of magic — glamour, the ability to alter perceptions of one’s person and surroundings — is subtle and fresh, with interesting ramifications for the social structure.
Jane is strong enough to carry the story — sensible and contentious, but understandably frustrated at her own limited prospects — and the dynamic with her sister is realistic and compelling. There’s plenty of natural jealousy here, without being overblown, and it reliably drives the plot. This is a story about relationships as much as about art and individual purpose, and the character development reflects that. It could stand a little more development, but that may come later in the series.
If you’re looking for a novel of society, self, manners, and magic, brew a cup of tea and settle in with this light novel for a spell.