I have definitely attempted to not have too many spoilers here because this is meant to attract people to the series. But there are probably going to be some minor spoilers, while I analyze some of the books in the series.
I have rarely found myself so addicted to a series so quickly as I was with the Glamourist Histories. Mary Robinette Kowal is an amazing writer and I found her series to be one of the greatest alternatives to traditional fantasy that exists. This is the kind of series that really takes chances with what we consider to be fantasy and what most people consider magic to be or not to be. I found the fact that Mary analyzes the magic system in a very scientific manner and even goes so far in Without a Summer to call Glamour to be examined by science. Even if it is the science of the early 19th Century.
I will admit that when most people see Regency Fantasy. They think of fancy dress parties and people saying, “Oh I say!”
Which I have to admit is not entirely outside the scope of these books. But there is quite a bit more to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories than that. All of the staples of Regency Fantasy are in there. But there are no Fae, no elves, no people in long cloaks trying to steal trinkets from each other. The books take place in the REAL history of the early 19th Century only with the addition of magic. Glamour specifically; which is a kind of illusion creation. There is a way to create a bit cold or a bit of heat using Glamour as well. But neither to any great effect, another words you couldn’t lit anyone on fire with the heat or freeze anyone with the cold. In the book, Without a Summer, these are talked about in detail.
More importantly, are the ways that the author wraps you in the world. There are details aplenty but never so many that you get bored with it or that you just want the action to continue and not care what things look like. Mary Robinette Kowal, seems to understand this and when there is action she only describes what is ABSOULTELY essential and leaves the rest to the imagination. During the slower sequences she spends more time talking about the setting and explaining some of the backstory so that the reader can better understand things when the action begins.
Within this incredible setting are some very memorable characters. Jane, the main character is definitely a cut above the norm. Jane is a VERY strong female lead. But she is still an English woman of the early 19th Century. She definitely doesn’t always concede to what is expected of her. But she also isn’t a woman of the 20th or the 21st Century either. Her sister begins as a rather typical woman of the era but she begins to show signs of being much more like her sister Jane by the time we reach the end of the second and the entire third book. Of course, Vincent is also an incredible character in this book. He is both a typical man of the era but as usual in this sort of work; he has some very non-typical reaction to some of the situations that occur. So that’s pretty awesome. There are certainly plenty of other great characters in the books, but these characters are the only ones that are present throughout all of the books.
Now that I’ve outlined the things that I loved the most about these books. I’ve rated all these books five stars. Because I felt that way about each one at the time I read it. But I have to say that my two favorite books in the series were Without a Summer and Valour and Vanity. But I DO suggest people read the entire series from the beginning. Personally, I had some trouble finding the book around at my local bookstores. So you might want to just buy them digitally through Amazon or one of the other wonderful online booksellers. I did listen to the majority of these books on audio as Mary Robinette Kowal is an Award winning narrator and she is good enough to narrate her books for us. I would say THAT listening to them in this way is THE most ENJOYABLE way to experience them. So if you can do that, I would suggest that course above all others. I listened to them through Audible audio books but I know they are available through other sources.