14 June 2014

Review: Glamour in Glass - Mary Robinette Kowal

The second book in the Glamourist Histories is every bit as good as Shades of Milk and Honey, and in some ways even better as Jane is integrated into a lifestyle much more suited to her tastes and talents. The regency words and manners are still there, but we have hopped from England over the channel, and into a very war-torn Belgium (then known as the part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands). Napoleon has abdicated and gone into exile, but there is still tension brewing and if you know your history, there would soon be an outbreak of fighting. The issue is that our newly-wed couple, Jane and Vincent, have gone to Belgium to stay with an old glamourist friend of Vincent's, and suddenly they find themselves in a very serious situation.

Historical fiction is made even better when it directly affects historical events. In this particular story, I love that the events during the Napoleonic Wars directly affect our protagonists, and I love how they, in turn, get involved with the events nearing the end of the wars. This all lends an air of time and place that was never fully realised in the first book.

Marriage and trust are huge ideas in the book, as is the pushing of boundaries for women. I love the way that the manners displayed in Belgium directly juxtapose those displayed in England, and I love the way that Jane's character grows as a result of this; in being shown that she does not have to act in a certain way, and that a woman's opinion does matter. The fact that Jane even becomes the hero of the tale, despite many obstructions is very admirable. She fights for her husband no matter what others may think of her, and her determination, cleverness and ideas make her a slightly more contemporary heroine than her Austen-styled rivals.

The ending is superb; a lot more life-threatening than in the first book and with far more action and tension. What begins as a seemingly everyday regency-style novel with threads of magic woven in becomes a tense and fairly thrilling read. Admittedly, there was a part of the end I could see coming a long way off, and it did feel slightly rushed, but really most of the end was quite unexpected.

Glamour, spies and Napoleon all come together to a surprisingly good effect, therefore it gets a 9 out of 10.