Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
In this alternate history of a Regency England, a lady's chance at a good match improves with her every talent: good taste in the arts, a deft hand at pulling images from the ether, and proper conduct in polite society. Miss Jane Ellsworth was born with gifts of a keen artistic eye and creating mesmerizing glamours, but her sister, Melody, was born with the gift of physical beauty. In the end, which is truly the more desirable? A series of romantic misunderstandings, poorly expressed feelings, and purposeful deception lead Jane and Melody into a better understanding of their own views on the topic. Verdict Readers will be disappointed only when they finish this enchanting story, which is suffused with genteel charm. The author's judicious and effective changes to aspects of daily life clearly communicate how similar but different this world is from ours. With the grace of Sense and Sensibility, a touch of classic fairy tale magic, and an action-packed ending, this debut novel by an award-winning fantasy short story writer will appeal to fans of Jane Austen, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Susannah Clarke, and even Jasper Fforde.-Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In Kowal's quasi-Regency fantasy debut, plain Miss Jane Ellsworth envies her sister's looks, while flighty Melody envies Jane's talent with magical glamour. Rude, mysterious Mr. Vincent, a brilliant glamour artist hired to create living murals in a nearby mansion, shows little interest in the niceties of society, and none (it seems) in Jane. As Jane shyly seeks Mr. Vincent's tutelage and approval, Melody pursues a disastrous romance. A sprinkling of Jane Austen's idiosyncratic spellings (shew, teaze, etc.) doesn't hide the lack of her trenchant wit or distinctive characters, and period errors abound. Despite the tremendous potential in the magical manipulation of light and temperature, glamour is used solely for decoration and entertainment, with implausibly little effect on history or culture. The story plods at a wooden pace until the climax, which achieves a sprightly comedy-of-errors froth. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Take Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and add a dash of magic and you have this delightful story by Mary Kowal. This is the story of two sisters, Jane, who is more magically talented, and Melody, a stunning beauty, and their quest to find love and stability. Both girls hope to marry well despite their lack of inheritance, and are pursued by various suitors. They are quickly embroiled into the intricacies of their neighbors' lives, and the resulting series of events is sure to entrance the reader. For those who love reading Jane Austen's books, this will at least temporarily satisfy the craving. A touch of magic inserted into the story is enough to enhance, but not overwhelm the story line. A quick, light read, with characters that the reader will feel right at home with.--Gerber, Rebecca Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Two marriageable British sisters search for suitable partners while practicing a benign sort of magic in this surreal Jane Austen update, the first novel from short-story writer Kowal.Clever and kind, 28-year-old Jane Ellsworth can count painting and music among her many accomplishments, but it is her skill at "glamour" that really sets her apart. Glamour, for Jane and other ladies of her class, is the ability to enhance daily living by conjuring up appealing scents, sounds and images out of thin air. And at Jane's level, it is an art. Her beautiful younger sister Melody is not as adept, but with a face like hers it hardly matters, as "plain" Jane ruefully acknowledges. Melody's potential suitors include their wealthy neighbor Mr. Dunkirk, a regular visitor at their estate, and the handsome young officer Captain Livingston, newly returned from the navy. Mr. Dunkirk is also charged with the care of his teenage sister Beth, a lively girl who grows close to Jane while harboring an unhappy secret. Resigning herself to spinsterhood, Jane finds her creative impulses stoked by the arrival of one swarthy Mr. Vincent. An itinerant glamourist contracted by local aristocrat Lady FitzCameron to decorate her manor, Mr. Vincent is gifted and intense, but lacking in social skills. He claims little interest in anything other than his "muse," although he recognizes a kindred spirit in Jane. After the two collaborate on a stunning tableau vivant, an overworked Mr. Vincent suffers a seizurea side effect of too-much glamour. Jane's quick thinking saves his life, but a long recovery complicates their emerging relationship. Meanwhile, silly Melody finds herself in a precarious situation with a certain gentlemen, forcing Jane to use her talents to save Melody's honorif it isn't too late. Kowal's unique take on an overly familiar plot does hold some potential, but the magic, like her sensible protagonist, comes across as a bit too tame.Gimmicky but respectful Pride and Prejudice homage.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.