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Mary Robinette Kowal

Pan Macmillan (2010)

ISBN: 9780765325563

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

When I first saw this book described by the author as being the book Jane Austen might have written had she lived in a world with magic, I did think that was a bit much. Obviously I wanted to read such a book, but really, comparing yourself to Austen? Isn’t that reaching a tad high, especially for a debut novelist? Also, let’s face it, a lot of authors have jumped on the Austen bandwagon. I’ve been burned by a lot of bad sequels to Pride and Prejudice, and while I never actually got around to trying that novel with added zombies, I did read a page of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and I’m never getting that thirty seconds of my life back!

But then I read this book, and I realised what was going on here.

Shades of Milk and Honey
is a novel so immersed in Austen and what for the purposes of this review I shall call Austenalia, that it seems impossible to read it any other way. It verges on parody, though the clever use of language and extreme authenticity of characters keeps it on the right side of that line. Which is not to say that there is not a hint of mockery about Austenian conventions in this book – but it’s the gentle kind of mockery that comes from someone who genuinely loves that author’s work, as opposed to, for example, the clumsy and appallingly offensive Red Dwarf episode written by Robert Llewellyn who had obviously never even watched a costume drama all the way through to the end…

Where was I?

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