Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bewitching Season

Twins Penelope and Persephone Leland have opposite reactions to their upcoming presentation at court and coming-out season in London: outgoing Pen is determined to enjoy every social function, while the quieter and more bookish Persy is sure she will freeze up or otherwise disgrace herself.  Though both girls hope they may catch a glimpse of Princess Victoria, whose birthday they share, what Persy is really looking forward to is returning home at the end of the season and taking up her studies again, especially the studies in magic that their governess Miss Allardyce has been conducting on the side.  But both their expectations of the season are thrown out of reckoning when Ally disappears, and the twins try to use their magic to find her.

This YA novel by Marissa Doyle is clearly a fantasy with romantic elements, rather than a romance with magic.  The characters are engaging enough, though by the end of the story Persy's constant self-deprecation began to annoy me as much as it did her sister Pen! Fun story, though, and it made me interested in hunting up the sequel, which my local library does not own.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shades of Milk and Honey

Unlike another noted Regency-era father of daughters whose estate is entailed on a cousin, Charles Ellsworth has set aside a yearly sum for the provision of his children, though he worries it won't be enough. He has no fears for his younger daughter, Melody, whose face is her fortune, but he can only hope that Jane's many accomplishments will be enough to recommend her to a suitor--perhaps the Naval captain visiting his aunt, the viscountess.  Jane, for her part, finds her barely-formed hopes of another neighbor shadowed when her beautiful sister sets her sights on the same man.  No one quite knows what to make of the taciturn professional artist creating an elaborate glamour for an upcoming ball.

In this delicately beautiful fantasy of manners, Mary Robinette Kowal's first novel, "glamour," or the magic of illusion, is a recognized art form, commonly used for decorative purposes in country homes, and one of the accomplishments a young lady of quality is expected to dabble in, along with watercolor painting and playing the pianoforte--Jane is noted for her skill at all three.  The novel made me think of the conversation if Jane Austen could have invited Lord Dunsany over for tea, and I found it almost uniformly charming--though maybe because Austen is a favorite author of mine, or because I've read so many lesser Regency romances, the Action Girl scene at the climax was a little jarring. Still, highly recommended!