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Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette KowalMary Robinette Kowal was the 2008 recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a Hugo nominee for her story “Evil Robot Monkey.” Her short fiction, including “Rampion” and “Bound Man,” has appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and many other markets. Mary, a professional puppeteer and voice actor, lives in Portland with her husband Rob and nine manual typewriters. Listen to some of her audio fiction at Mary Robinette Kowal’s website.

Shades of Milk & Honey

Shades of Milk & Honey — (2010-2015) Publisher: Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right — and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMary Robinette Kowal Shades of Milk & Honey 2. Glamour in Glassfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsValour and Vanityfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Shades of Milk and Honey: A Regency romp with magic

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Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Jane Ellsworth is resigned to spinsterhood. At twenty-eight, her chances of finding a husband are dwindling. Her long nose and sharp chin make her less than a beauty, and she can’t help but compare herself to her younger sister Melody who is a beauty. Jane’s proficiency in the art of glamour, manipulating etheric energies to enhance art, music or decoration, is above average, but in Jane’s mind, this is nothing special, because glamour is “no more a necessary than playing the piano.”

With Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal expertly captures the flavor and detail of a Regency-era novel, in a nineteenth-century England where magic is an everyday thing. Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy this novel. Readers who have never read Jane Austen might find this book to be a good introduction, surprisingly enou... Read More

Glamour in Glass: I would like to see more of Jane and Vincent

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Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Glamour in Glass in a fast-paced magical adventure set in the Regency period, during the Peninsular Wars. This is Mary Robinette Kowal’s second book in her series that started with Shades of Milk and Honey.

Kowal captures the language and sensibility of Jane Austen’s era exactly. Jane and Vincent, both accomplished glamourists, have been married for three months. After Jane struggles to get through a nerve-wracking state dinner hosted by the Prince of Wales, she discovers that the prince has offered them a honeymoon trip to Belgium. Vincent is eager to go because he wants to discuss his new glamour, a sphere that creates invisibility, with one of his old glamourist friends. Napoleon has accepted exile on Elba and things are peaceful, so Jane and Vincent decide to go.

Kowal makes a high-risk choice in Glamou... Read More

Without a Summer: Cold magic in Regency England

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Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Without a Summer is the third book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST fantasy series set in an alternative Regency-era England where magic, or "glamour," is used as an art form to create intricate visual illusions. Jane and Vincent, both accomplished glamour artists, are visiting with Jane’s parents and younger sister Melody in the country.  It’s an unseasonably cold spring, giving rise to concerns about the harvest. Jane and Melody’s father is concerned that a poor harvest could affect his ability to provide Melody with a suitable dowry; Melody is frustrated with the dearth of interesting and marriageable men in the area.

So when Jane and Vincent are offered the change to create a magical illusion for a London family, they invite Melody to come along and enjoy a stay in London... Read More

Valour and Vanity: Pirates, Puppets and Lord Byron!

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Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

Valour and Vanity is the fourth book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s series THE GLAMOURISTS. This time our husband-and-wife team of heroes, David Vincent and Lady Jane Vincent, are stranded, penniless, in Murano, victims of a predatory swindler who hopes to sell their secret glamour process to the highest bidder. To stop this from happening, Vincent and Jane must out-swindle the swindler. Yes, that’s right; set during the British Regency, this book is a caper book.

So, hmmm… Do I write a conventional review, or just give you a list of some of the things you will encounter in the book? Well, here’s the list, in no particular order.

Pirates
Puppets
Puppeteers
Glamourized lions from ancient Rome
Venice
Murano glass-blowing studios
Lord Byron
Lord Byron naked in... Read More

Of Noble Family: A suspenseful, multi-layered finale to an imaginative series

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Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal

Warning: May contain spoilers for previous books in the GLAMOURIST HISTORIES

With Of Noble Family, Mary Robinette Kowal brings to an end her GLAMOURIST HISTORIES series, set in a fantastical English Regency period. While the book resolves several issues in the lives of Jane and David Vincent, there is no feeling of “winding down.” The book is suspenseful, filled with surprises and real stakes for Jane and her beloved, troubled husband.

In Vienna, Jane and Vincent are interrupted in the midst of a family visit by a letter informing Vincent that his father, the villainous Lord Verbury, has died in Antigua. The Lord fled to Antigua after being accused of treason in England. A ... Read More

The Lady Astronaut of Mars: Hugo winning novelette

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The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Lady Astronaut of Mars, which won this year’s Hugo Award for best novelette, moved me. It was well-structured, all the ends tucked in and callbacks in the right places. It used symbolism and literary reference and pointed to issues of the human condition at large, like career versus family. All of this would usually add up to five stars from me, particularly since the author has as beautiful a voice on the page as she does when she speaks. It's the kind of strongly written, human story that wins Hugos, and it reminded me Mike Resnick's "The Homecoming," also Hugo-nominated (though that one didn't win).

But it's one of those stories that bombards the characters with pain and just doesn't let up on them. Now, that's a l... Read More

Word Puppets: This entertaining collection shows the development of the writer

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Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal

Word Puppets is a collection of Mary Robinette Kowal’s short fictions. Fans of her GLAMOURISTS series will find not a single one in its pages, and many of these tales are science fiction, with several stories set on Mars. Patrick Rothfuss provides a humorous introduction, and tells us that these nineteen works are in chronological order. This gives the reader a chance to see Kowal’s development as a story-teller.

I am not going to review all nineteen. I will discuss the stories I liked best or found most interesting, with one exception; there is one story that was not successful for me.

Kowal has created a story uni... Read More

Ghost Talkers: Thought-provoking, action-packed paranormal spy drama

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Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal leaves behind the British Regency period in Ghost Talkers (2016), setting this paranormal tale during World War I. The British have learned that spiritualism is real, and they are using a circle of mediums to interact with the spirits of recently killed British soldiers, who seek out the mediums to provide whatever information they can from the scene of their deaths. Ginger Stuyvesant is an American medium, engaged to a British intelligence officer, and the main character of this action-packed paranormal spy drama.

This is a fascinating idea and Kowal develops it thoroughly. Realistically, most soldiers who died in a trench aren’t going to have useful intel to bring back; Kowal, a consummate professional,... Read More

Forest of Memory: Engaging if somewhat bewildering

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Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

A story set in the future about an ‘authenticities’ dealer, Forest of Memory is set in a culture where everyone is connected by an omnipresent internet. The main character has a personal AI who is always listening and also recording and broadcasting the life of the protagonist. Mary Robinette Kowal then thrusts the main character into a situation where none of her technology works.

The premise of the tale interested me. In few words, Kowal has built a culture that is both rooted in today and wholly futuristic. It is believable and engaging, asking and answering: what if the internet connects us all, all the time? Its dream-like atmosphere and descriptions lend to the uniqueness of the tale, and made it a gripping setting.... Read More

Magazine Monday: Hoorays for Valente as Editor, Kessel as Writer

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Apex Magazine is an online journal published on the first Monday of every month, edited by Catherynne M. Valente. Valente’s submission guidelines give you a clear idea of what to expect to read within Apex’s pixels: “What we want is sheer, unvarnished awesomeness.… We want stories full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful.” The January issue definitely meets those requirements.

“The Itaewon Eschatology Show” by Douglas F. Warrick is a story that cries out to be labeled “New Weird.” It’s about an American in Korea – though why he is there is a complete mystery – who is a “night clown.” This means that every night he, along with his friend Kidu, dresses up a... Read More

Magazine Monday: Asimov’s June 2011

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The June 2011 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction has a beautiful cover of a woman who is partly constructed of a gold metallic weave. The artist, Jacques Barbey, poses her at the shore of a river or lake golden with the sunset, wearing a headdress that appears to be functional in some way, apparently as a weapon. It doesn’t seem to match up to any of the stories in this issue, but it is a lovely image all on its own. And who says fantastic paintings need to refer to anything but the artist’s own imagination, anyway?

Most of the issue is consumed by a new novella by Mary Robinette Kowal, “Kiss Me Twice.” This accomplished work is a true science fiction mystery, which is much harder to pull off than might be im... Read More

Magazine Monday: 2012 Nebula-Nominated Novellas

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I do not envy the awards panel for the Nebula Awards this year. There are two excellent novellas equally deserving of the award in that category.

The first of the novellas I refer to is “The Man Who Ended History:  A Documentary” by Ken Liu.  This story concerns the Pingfang District in China and the infamous Unit 731 maintained there by the Japanese for biological and chemical weapons research before and during World War II. I had never heard of Unit 731 before reading this novella, and was shocked to learn of its existence and the role of the United States in hushing it up after the war in order to profit from the research. It sounds so innocuous to refer to “the research”: in fact, the Japanese used Chinese peasants for their research, includi... Read More

SFM: Ronald, Vernon, Tregillis, Kowal, Hartley, Deeds

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about.



“And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices” by Margaret Ronald (June 2016, free at Clarkesworld or paperback magazine issue)


Dr. Kostia is a keynote speaker and panel participant in an academic conference. Her specialty is extra-terrestrial intelligence ― specifically, the analysis of some radio-like transmissions from an alien race called the Coronals. About thirty years before, Earth scientists received a signal from the Corona Borealis that rewrote an entire computing cent... Read More

SFM: Liu, Bisson, Kowal, Landis

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. In honor of the just-ended MidAmeriCon II and the awarding of the 2016 Hugos, this week's reviews are all past Hugo award winners that are available to read free online.


“Mono No Aware” by Ken Liu (2012, originally published in The Future is Japanese anthology, reprinted 2013 and free online at Lightspeed, Read More

SFM: Tambour, Vaughn, Kowal, Larson, Balder

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.


“The Walking-Stick Forest” by Anna Tambour (2014, free on Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)This is an excellent dark and fantastical short story, set in 1924 in Scotland. Athol Farquar is a veteran of World War I who now lives a solitary life as a carver ― or, more accurately, a shaper ― of wooden walking sticks. He has a deep affinity for blackthorn wood and the forests around his home, and an equally profound distrust of people... Read More

Epic: Legends of Fantasy: Lives up to its title

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Epic: Legends of Fantasy by John Joseph Adams (editor)

Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams, is an anthology of stories written by some of the biggest names in epic fantasy. The book clocks in at over 600 pages not just because it’s very difficult to tell short epic stories (though some of these authors do manage to pull it off) but because here the authors are not just telling epic legends, they are legends in and of themselves. George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Paolo Bacigalupi, Brandon Sanderson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kate Elliott, Orson Scott Card, Tad Williams, Aliette de Bodard, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Mary Robinette Kowal, N.K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Trudi Canavan,  and Juliet Marillier all contributed stories to this volume.

Epic: Legends of Fantasy opens with a novella by Read More

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: For a dose of crazy genius

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The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is the latest themed anthology edited by John Joseph Adams — and it’s another good one. This time, Adams has collected a set of short stories featuring the hero’s (or often superhero’s) traditional antagonist: the mad genius, the super-villain, the brilliant sociopath who wants to remold the world in his own image — or occasionally, maybe, just be left alone in his secret lair to conduct spine-tingling experiments that, as an unfortunate side-effect, may cause drastically rearranged geography, rampant mutation, or major extinction events.

Under the editorial direction of John Joseph Adams, this anthology offers an impressively varied view on this archetypical character. Some stories refer back to mad geniuses you’ll be familiar with (Fran... Read More

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction: Packed full of excellent SF stories

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Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction is packed full of excellent science fiction stories. I've been reading anthologies lately, partly to improve my own short story writing, and this is the best I've found so far. It contains stories by authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. ValenteJohn Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Read More

More books by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal Scenting the Dark and Other StoriesScenting the Dark and Other Stories — (2009) Publisher: These things await you: Love and hope in the aftermath of a very personal environmental apocalypse. Fear that comes in being trapped in your own body, enslaved by your own faulty synapses. Dread in a cure that works in unexpected ways. Discovery of what you’ve always known, but couldn’t face, about your own lover. Explore these and more in the seven beautiful, wounded landscapes of Scenting the Dark, the first collection from Campbell Award-winner Mary Robinette Kowal. Her lean, vigorous style has been satisfying readers since 2006, including multiple appearances in Year’s Best lists. The stories here lay bare the ways we try to prevent, contain and repair the damaged world around us, the further harm we can cause by trying, and why every moment of joyous, defiant struggle is worth it — if you have love enough, and hope.


fantasy and science fiction book reviews“For Want of a Nail” — “For Want of a Nail” is the 2011 Hugo-nominated story by award-winning author, Mary Robinette Kowal. This science-fiction short story explores the complex choices that an AI and her wrangler must make to solve a seemingly simple technical problem. Also in this edition, is bonus material that includes author’s notes as well as a look at the writing process. The original and unedited first draft of this story has a completely different plot. Read it and the brainstorming notes to get a peek into the creative process.


CLICK HERE FOR MORE BY MARY ROBINETTE KOWAL.


Marie Brennan and Mary Robinette Kowal on the Brave New Worlds Tour

I had the chance to see Marie Brennan and Mary Robinette Kowal at Copperfield's Books in Petaluma California on May 7. I have a signed copy of Kowal's Of Noble Family and a signed copy of Brennan's Voyage of the Basilisk to give away to one lucky random commenter with a U.S. address.

Mary Robinette Kowal (left, with egret feather) and Marie Brennan take questions from the audience.



“We dress like this all the time,” Mary Robinette Kowal said in response to a casual question, as she and Marie Brennan sat down at the table in Copperfield’s Books. “Mine’s really comfortable. It’s like a nightgown.”

Marie Brennan looked at her. “Mine Read More