Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

shades-of-milk-and-honeyShades of Milk and Honey
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Glamourist Histories #1
Genre: Fantasy
Published by Tor Books,
E-book, purchased
304 pages
Grade: B-
Synopsis: Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

This debut novel from an award-winning talent scratches a literary itch you never knew you had. Like wandering onto a secret picnic attended by Pride and Prejudice and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Shades of Milk and Honey is precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen…if only she had been a fantasy writer.

“. . . Illusions should be entrancing without someone looking behind the scenes to see how they are made. Would you enjoy a play where you saw the mechanicals exposed? For me, it is much the same. I want the illusion to remain whole. If someone thinks about how it is done, then I have failed in my art.”

At last Jane apprehended his meaning and how she had transgressed at the ball and then again here, but her own principles were different. “I have always thought that an educated audience could more fully appreciate the effort which went into creating a piece of art.”


  • A fantasy with a nod to Jane Austen and Regency England.
  • Manipulating glamour is so much a part of this world. The magic is very interesting–especially how it’s so tied up with the manners of the society.
  • I like the way Jane uses her glamour. Playing music, for example, to enhance it with glamour.
  • This world has so much potential.


  • I thought the story had a lot of potential, but didn’t quite live up to that potential. I want more magic and world building and less romance maybe?
  • The story has the basics of many of Jane Austen’s books–society events, the silly young women, an older, plainer spinster–but not some of the substance.
  • Jane’s sister and mother are so annoying!

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’ve wanted to read this book for quite awhile, but just hadn’t gotten to it.
  • I listened to a novella–“The Lady Astronaut of Mars”–written by Ms. Kowal and that whetted my appetite for more books by her, but that story is very different from this fantasy.
  • Because I enjoyed “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” so much I expected to really like this book. Thus, I’m disappointed with this book, but I’m going to read the second book and hope I like it more.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Mary Robinette Kowal is not only an award-winning writer, but also an award-winning puppeteer. One of her short stories–“For Want of a Nail”–won the Nebula Award in 2011 and this book was also nominated for a Nebula Award. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” won a Hugo Award last year. She lives in Chicago with her husband.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge

Author: Jan

I love to read--especially mysteries, science fiction and fantasy. I also love blogging, photography, gardening, playing Mah Jonng, reading with a cat on my lap, throwing a ball for a dog, creating cards to send to family and friends, reading book blogs, using my computer.

2 thoughts on “Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal”

  1. I was ho hum about this one as well but did enjoy the second book in the series better. I obviously didn’t love it though because I have yet to read book 3…


  2. I also really loved The Lady Astronaut of Mars, so I’m sad to hear that this one was a bit of a disappointment. It’s on my list as well – I actually own the first three books in the series. Hopefully this is a case of “first book is the weakest” and the second one impresses you more! For some reason overbearing moms seems to be a trend in Regency era fiction…wonder why that is.


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