Thursday, November 26, 2015

Book Review: Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Without a Summer
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Glamourist Histories (Book 3)
Publication: Tor Books; Reprint edition (March 18, 2014)

Description: Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with her novels Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass, which introduced Regency glamourists Jane and David Vincent. In Without a Summer, Jane and Vincent take a break from their international travels. But in a world where magic is real, nothing--even the domestic sphere--is quite what it seems.

After a dramatic trip to Belgium, Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane's family, but quickly turn restless. The spring is unseasonably cold, and no one wants to be outside. Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a poor one may imperil Melody's dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given an inadequate selection of eligible bachelors locally.

When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent London family, they take it, and bring Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects--and mood--will be brighter in London. Talk here frequently turns to increased unemployment of coldmongers and riots in nearby villages by Luddites concerned that their way of life is becoming untenable. With each passing day, it's more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, which does not really help Melody's chances for romance. It doesn't take long for Jane to Vincent realize that in addition to arranging a wedding, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of national proportions.

My Thoughts: Jane and Vincent are back home in England after the defeat of Napoleon. They come home to a country reeling under multiple threats - the unseasonably cold weather is threatening crop failures, the soldiers who fought Napoleon are being mustered out and are looking for jobs, and technical inventions causing workers to lose jobs that can be done by machine. On the more personal side, Jane is worried that her younger sister Melody doesn't have any matrimonial prospects.

When Jane and Vincent get a commission for a glamour from Lord and Lady Stratton in London, they accept and take Melody along in hopes of expanding her pool of potential husbands. Of course, London also throws them back into the arena of Vincent's father Lord Verbury. To say that Vincent and his father don't get along would be a gross understatement.

Melody falls for Lord Stratton's son despite the fact that he is Catholic which causes Jane some misgivings as she believes that Alastar O'Brien won't be allowed to marry Melody. Her misgivings increase when she overhears some things that lead her to believe that he is involved in some sort of conspiracy and when she sees him in conversation with Lord Verbury.

Mr. O'Brien also does some work with the coldmongers who are being wrongfully blames for the current weather conditions. Coldmungers are young men and boys whose magical skill is to lower the temperature a few degrees. They are used to keep food safe for longer periods and to provide cool breezes in warm houses. They have only small magics which are dangerous to use. Most die young. They are planning a peaceful march in London.

However, Lord Verbury has other plans. He wants to use the coldmunger's march to overthrow a political rival. His twisted plot draws in Jane and Vincent too. This story talks a lot about the various sorts of prejudice in England in 1816. Especially relevant to our hero and heroine is the prejudice against the Irish. But the story also deals with Vincent's family dynamics and gives Jane a much better knowledge of Vincent's background.

This was another entertaining and engaging entry into the Glamourist Histories.

Favorite Quote:
If Jane could articulate why she felt so sure that something larger was in the works, she would have argued for staying, but none of her arguments amounted to more than saying, "But something is wrong."
I bought this book. You can buy your copy here.

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