Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Title: Without a Summer
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal

First line: Jane, Lady Vincent could never be considered a beauty, but possessed of a loving husband and admirable talent, had lived thirty years in the world with only a few events to cause her any true distress or vexation.

Review: This is the third book in Kowal's Glamourist series, a series of historical fantasies set during the English Regency, following glamourists Jane and her husband Vincent. (Here are my reviews for the first book and the second.)

After their tumultuous run in with Napoleon's forces while in Belgium, Jane and Vincent are back in the UK with Jane's family. Commissioned by an Irish Catholic family to do some glamour, Jane and Vincent find themselves becoming embroiled in a political plot against the coldmongers, who are being blamed for the unseasonably cold weather that summer.

Kowal picks up some of the emotional threads from the previous book, most notably Jane's sister Melody's moodiness although the spoiler! from book two is only barely alluded to here, disappointingly.

I've never been so dedicated to a series that has been so uneven for me; in all honesty, I almost DNF'd this one as I stalled out about 3/4ths of the way through before rallying. I was mostly exhausted by the emotional development of the characters. Vince's brooding felt less Darcy-like and more flat out sulky; I noted in my initial thoughts that Jane out-and-out irritated me, although right now I can't recall why.

What was appealing in this story was the pointed inclusion of a person of color in the narrative, a tertiary character, but a notable one nonetheless. As Kowal discusses the importance of diversity in historical fiction, I appreciate her working to incorporate it in her works.

Another review that damns with faint praise, I know, and I don't know why I'm doing this to myself. It's not fair to Kowal, I suppose, since I know what the books are like -- and yet, I want so badly to be immersed in this world that I keep trying. (I will say that I liked the fourth book, Vanity and Valour, very much, so I'm glad I kept trying!)

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Regency / Magic / Marriage / Sisters / Political Intrigue / Class and Society)
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books (3/18/2014)
Source: My public library
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

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