Mary Robinette Kowal,
Valour & Vanity
(Tor, 2014)

If you are not reading this series by Mary Robinette Kowal, this book -- the fourth in the series -- is a fine place to start. Its tone is a lot different than that of the previous novels, although they were more "Jane Austen with magic," while Valour & Vanity is more like if Austen wrote a heist/intrigue novel....

We get to see much more of Jane's and Vincent's relationship, and how they are learning to work together and rely on each other, albeit through struggles both within the relationship and caused by outside forces. Fot this reason, it seemed more intimate to me than the previous novels in the series, much as I loved them.

Also, the plot is more obviously exciting. Pirates! Swindles! Reversals of fortune! Revenge! Secret motivations and spying! And even Lord Byron! Kowal does a brilliant job of winding the very personal and intimate into the more carefully convoluted and eventful plot, with each reflecting on the other in many ways. Wonderfully wrought!

The other characters come alive, too, both the Good Guys and the not. I especially loved the portrayals of the nuns. Having attended a Catholic women's college, I learned great respect and admiration for nuns, and these are GREAT nuns, each very distinct.

I also appreciated that the glamour -- the magic -- was described more precisely, giving me a better idea of what it can and cannot do.

This is an excellent novel that kept me up a few times reading when I ought to have been asleep -- and that's rare for me these days. Valour & Vanity is highly recommended, for a perspective on the Regency era and for those who would love a very unique magical system in fantasy, or who have been reading the series. I think this one is my favorite thus far.

book review by
Amanda Fisher

14 June 2014

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