Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane Ellsworth and Vincent. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where magic is real, nothing—even the domestic sphere—is quite what it seems.
Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The year is unseasonably cold. No one wants to be outside and Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a bad one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to take it, and take Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London.
Once there, talk is of nothing but the crop failures caused by the cold and increased unemployment of the coldmongers, which have provoked riots in several cities to the north. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, none of which really helps Melody’s chances for romance. It’s not long before Jane and Vincent realize that in addition to getting Melody to the church on time, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of international proportions.
Out of the three Glamourist books that I’ve read so far, I love this one the most. Without A Summer starts off some time after Glamour in Glass. The Vincents have been staying with Jane’s family in Long Parkmead. Sensing a need of change, they decide to take up a job and invite Melody to London with them.
What I love about this book and the one before it is that the characters and world are becoming more and more Kowal’s and not Jane Austen. I mentioned in a previous post that Kowal’s magical regency setting was a homage to Jane Austen’s work. In the second book, Kowal gave her characters and world more substance. In this book, that doesn’t change. It grows.
Vincent is still his quiet and attractive self. I didn’t care for him in the first book, was falling for him in the second, in this one . . . he’s a keeper. I love his roguish way. He stays within the parameters of what society expects, but does have moments where he can be a romantic hero in a modern setting as well. Jane has shown a different part of her. She was a determined and strong woman in the second book. In this one, she shows her overprotective and possibly paranoid self. Melody, Jane’s younger sister, seems to have changed the most.
In Shades of Milk and Honey, Melody seemed just like Jane Austen’s Lydia or Kitty. She was prone to headaches and acted like a flippant young woman trying to snatch a man. In Without A Summer, she isn’t that prissy little thing. You learn more about her and see the same determination and strength Jane shows in Glamour in Glass. I was worried about what Melody was going to be like, but the more I got into the book, the more I loved her. Kowal has surprised me with this characterization, but it makes sense.
The story follows the political intrigue vein, but this time it is in England. I found the mystery easier and more enjoyable to follow. With Glamour in Glass we had politics and spying going on. In this one, Jane seems to have missed that excitement because she tries to find a conspiracy everywhere.
The world is expanded more with glamour being used not only as decoration. I liked that we are seeing the magic being used in a number of different ways and it excites me to wonder what else glamour could be used for. As much as I want to continue with this world, it will have to wait. My library doesn’t have the other two books in the series. As such, I now have to read books that I already own before purchasing the two to read. However, I can’t wait for that time.
Kowal weaves a great story with characters I have fallen in love with and a world that seems to grow more and more with each book. I will have to wait for future books in this world, but I can’t. This is definitely a read.