Review: Without A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Posted 30 September, 2013 by Pushy in Blog, Featured, Heather, Heather Book Review, Pushy, Pushy Book Review / 5 Comments

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review:  Without A Summer by Mary Robinette KowalWithout A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Glamourist Histories
Published by Tor on April 2nd 2013
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
4.5 Stars

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.

Pushy:  Ahh…Jane and David.  It was with immense pleasure that I delved back into the world that Mary Robinette Kowal built for them.  Magical is such an inadequate word for the rich, lush, amazing alternate history Regency era world of the Glamourist Histories, and Without A Summer is as exceedingly enchanting as its predecessors.

Heather: Stepping back into Jane and David’s world is refreshing after living in our modern world of cell phones, technology, and comforts. After the Battle of Quatre Bras, Vincent and Jane returned to her parents home for the length of their recoveries. When they are commissioned for a glamural in a ballroom for an Irish Baron in London, they take Jane’s sister Melody along for the Season since the prospects of Melody finding a husband around their home are dismal. But with the hope of London being a place to brighten Melody’s mood and a chance of getting noticed, the atmosphere is tense as the local coldmongers are threatening to revolt as they aren’t being employed because the weather is unseasonably cold during the spring into summer.

Pushy:  You’re so right, Heather!!  It was fascinating how much politics were interwoven into the world that Mary Robinette Kowal made for this series.  And as ever, she makes that fine line between true history and the figments of her imagination so blurred that they blend seamlessly into one another.  And it’s clearly from her prowess as a writer of amazing characters.  Without our ability to see this world through Jane’s eyes, it could never come alive so well as it does.  But then again, I know I’ve said before how much I  adore Jane!  She’s such a wonderful character!  Don’t you think so, Heather?

Heather: Jane is such a wonderful character. She’s headstrong and isn’t the slightest bit meek. I’ve always enjoyed her wit, her no nonsense attitude toward prejudice and small minded people. But what I really enjoyed was Jane and Vincent’s relationship in this book. Their marriage is so realistic and accurately portrayed, and they are such a perfect match for each other. But it isn’t all roses and rainbows, and rough patches and hardships do find them during the course of this book. They were excellent role models throughout for Melody as she searched for a suitor.

Pushy:  So, of course this begs the question….what did you think of Melody?

Heather: Melody was a character that irritated me in the first book, Shades of Milk and Honey. She really comes into her own in this third book, and I was pleasantly surprised by her boldness and strong choices. Great character development!

Pushy:  I couldn’t agree more, Heather!  Melody in the first book was little short of a pampered brat!  And what little we see of her in Glamour In Glass doesn’t endear her to the reader much either, but she is growing and in this book, she’s definitely matured.  By the end of the book, I found myself wondering if my views of Melody weren’t perhaps colored by Jane’s perceptions of her….  Regardless, I couldn’t have been happier with how her story is left at the end of this book!

So we’ve had love and politics….but what of the magic?!?

Heather: Mary Robinette Kowal continues to expand the alternate universe of glamour, and I’m constantly amazed to see what this type of magic system can achieve.

Pushy:  Ditto, ditto, ditto!!!  I love the whole concept of how Ms. Kowal has intertwined history with the fantasy of glamour, and I enjoyed how much we got to see Jane and Vincent use it.  Plus we learned more possibilities than ever before:  the ability to fluctuate temperatures, the ability to bend sound…it’s clear that Ms. Kowal’s given some serious thought to the physics of her world, which make it all the more fascinating!

One of my favorite parts of this book was learning more about how Jane and Vincent work with glamour, but when we learn more about Vincent’s past and how he obtained his proficiency, didn’t that just kill you!?!

Heather: It’s a wonder that Vincent turned out as well as he did with a father like he has… We learn more of Vincent’s heartbreaking history, and we finally meet his family. In true Jane fashion, she doesn’t stand down when confronted with a domineering force, and she certainly stands up for her husband whenever she can. I won’t spoil this part of the book, but there is a reason he changed his name and doesn’t stay in contact with them.

Pushy:  Can you blame him?  Those folks are just….well…. humpf!

Heather: These books get a bit more action packed with each installment, which I really enjoy. Jane is a bit more outspoken and modern in each one too. The love story between Jane and Vincent is swoon worthy but realistic, and it makes me wish for my very own Vincent! I really look forward to the next book.


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Lover of words and authors; absolute fan girl of books! Give me a good story, with characters I can love (and hate) and I'll follow you anywhere. Sing me a song of worlds I can dream of, and I'll listen forever.

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5 Responses to “Review: Without A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal”

  1. Um…why haven’t I read this series yet? After reading the banter between the two of you lovely ladies, I KNOW I need to get on this now! Love, politics, magic and fantastic writing — what more could I ask for?
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted..Fabulous fantasy: BATTLE MAGIC by Tamora PierceMy Profile

    Reply »

    Heather 10/1/2013

    This series is fantastic, Mary! I’m not a big fan of Jane Austin so I didn’t enjoy the first book as much as Pushy did, but I loved the second and third book because there’s a lot of action and intrigue.

    How many books have I added to your pile now? LOL.

    Reply »

  2. Ladies-I’m so intrigued. I remember when Shades of Milk and Honey first came out and wanting to delve into this unique world of Regency and Magic. Your descriptions of Mary Robinette Kowal’s alternate universe of glamour and magic system have reminded me of what I’m missing. (Plus the love story between Jane and Vincent that you describe as swoon worthy.)

    Thanks for sharing this fabulous review-I almost forgot about this series! Making shure it’s on my TBR list/Goodreads. 🙂

    Reply »

    Heather 10/1/2013

    There’s supposed to be five books in this series in total, so you have time to catch up, Kim! It’s a great series.

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