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Valour and Vanity
by Mary Robinette Kowal
TOR Books; $25.99; 408pp
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Our favorite Regency glamourists, Jane and David Vincent are on a European tour with Jane’s family. The Vincents decide to part ways and visit Venice, specifically the island of Murano where master glassblowers live. The Vincents are in pursuit of developing a Verre Obscucie a glass globe that allows preserving a glamour image (magic) in glass so it can be moved.

Things swiftly go south in a handbasket as on the way to Venice their ship is attacked by Barbary Corsairs.

David is walloped hard on the head and Lady Vincent is being haggled over when luckily, the ship is rescued and the Corsairs defeated.  The Vincents land in Venice bedraggled and penniless because the Corsairs were able to make off with all their money, papers and luggage. They seek out their friend Lord Byron but find he is not at home. Now, they have nowhere to stay.

Again, luck is with them and they are taken in by an older gentleman, a Senor Sanuto, who was also a passenger on their ship. He takes them under his wing offering them a loan and the use of his palazzo. Jane finds work at a local church and Vincent is reduced to being a street performer utilizing his ability to manipulate glamour.

But almost nothing is as it seems, here in Venice and the Vincents find themselves involved in a very complicated swindle. They are forced to make a heist of their own notes and some prototype globes of the verre obscurcie which involves a puppeteer, a group of nuns and Lord Byron; because if they don’t, the French will get their hands on their creation.

This was great fun especially as the Vincents develop their elaborate scheme to steal back their notes and their verres obscurcie.  Lord Byron even has a chance to be well…Byronic.  The novel moves along at a brisk pace and we get to see yet again the deep affection the Vincents have for each other as well as a deeper understanding of their pasts.

Another charmer from Ms. Kowal. ~~ Sue Martin

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