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Glamour in Glass
by Mary Robinette Kowal
TOR; $24.99; 334pp
Release Date: April 10, 2012

This is the second novel set in Ms. Kowal’s alternate Regency England where there are artists who can use magical “glamour.” Kowal’s definition of glamour is at the back of the novel: “It allows them (the glamourists) to create illusions of light, scent, and sound.” It also can require a great deal of energy depending on the size of the effort.

As with her previous novel “Shades of Milk and Honey,” this is also a novel written as homage to Jane Austen, even to the level of only using words that were prevalent in Austen’s time. Kowal makes note of those few aberrations she did use in her notes at the end of the book.

I found this a much more robust attempt at highlighting Austen’s style and her approach to characters and plot. It was a much more interesting tale and to me less derivative of a specific Austen novel than her previous work. There is more of Kowal in this tale than of Austen which for me is more refreshing.

Glamourists Jane and David Vincent have dazzled the Prince Regent with a commissioned mural in Carlton House. At a party to celebrate the unveiling of the mural, Jane discovers that David has plans for them to go to Brussels to visit another master glamourist while on their long-delayed honeymoon; especially now that Europe is once again accessible because Napoleon is in exile on Elba . The Prince Regent lends them the use of his yacht to sail across the channel.

Once there David dives right into his discussions with the master Monsieur Chastain and Jane expands her French. While they are there, Jane, while watching one of Chastain’s’ small daughters use a crystal to make rainbows on the wall, realizes there might be a way to capture a glamour inside glass so that it can be moved without dissipating its shape and strength. Something never tried before (and hence the title of the novel). She and David experiment and she is found to be correct. Utilizing a glamour that can be carried about without disturbing the illusion is a big step forward.

One of the applications of glamour that prove invaluable is the ability to make a “Sphere Oscurcie” a sphere that allows the holder to be invisible. The process of creating this invisible sphere is well known, but it has never been created to be mobile.

This important discovery by the Vincents is made even more wonderful by the fact that Jane finds herself enceinte and everyone is thrilled. Things could not be better.

But this is 1815.

And the news reaches them that the Corsican has escaped and is on the move again—right through Belgium .

The action in the novel really speeds up when Jane not only discovers that David is actually spying for England but that the helpful maid Anne-Marie who has proven invaluable to Jane by helping her refine her French, is a Bonapartist spy.

There is a kidnapping, a chase, escapes and great heart-wrenching drama at the end of this novel. And even a visit with General Wellington.

A “Glamour in Glass” will especially please those who not only love Regencies, but love a soupcon of magic with their tales. ~~ Sue Martin

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