I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review: Without a Summer

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories #3)
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Historical Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

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.


In the first book of this series, I was initially drawn to Jane because she was such a logical, practical thinker, and not afraid to do what needed to be done.  In this book, that aspect of her personality gets lost a little.  I suppose it does make sense if you think of how she is now in London which is a more progressive place than her home village, but I feel like Jane makes way too many mistakes in this story that had me a little disappointed in her.  But the plot of this book made up for a lot of that.

Unexpectedly, a truly despicable villain is introduced, there is a court room drama, and the story gets darker when things take a turn for the worse for Jane and Vincent.  This series really is leaving behind the Austen atmosphere, as revolution, imprisonment, prejudice and racism become important parts of the story.  And that addition of realism and social justice just makes the world and the character-building stronger.  Jane and Vincent are growing as characters and as a married couple, and to see how they deal with the issues that come up made me more invested in their dynamic (as if I didn't love them enough as a couple!) and in their plight as they both face some serious consequences to their actions.  The story does take awhile to really get going, but the ending is fast-paced, exciting and suspenseful.

Because of the initial slow pacing and my disappointment at times with Jane, I feel like this is not as strong of a novel as the previous two, but there are some great elements, some truly wonderful interactions between Jane and Vincent, and the opportunity to learn more about Vincent and his family.  It's interesting how gradually the reader is getting to know and understand Vincent more with each book.  This series is the best!

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