Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for July 5th, 2012

Just Reviewed Kowal’s Alternate Regencies; Fun Stuff

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Folks, as it’s July 5, 2012, and I’d promised the Shiny Book Review faithful a new review or two, I just reviewed both of Mary Robinette Kowal’s alternate Regencies, SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY and GLAMOUR IN GLASS.  Check out my review of both books here.

Now, what is it about the Regency period that makes for such great fantasy material?  In addition to Kowal’s two novels, I’ve seen several other really fine writers do some interesting things with either the Austen canon (not merely PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, which I viewed as kitsch, but Sarah A. Hoyt and Sofie Skapski’s excellent A TOUCH OF NIGHT, which incorporates Weres — shapechanging into animals — into PRIDE AND PREJUDICE without a hitch) or with the milieu itself (the two books by André Norton and Rosemary Edghill that comprise CAROLUS REX, THE SHADOW OF ALBION and LEOPARD IN EXILE, are both excellent).

I think the main reason novelists in and out of the romance genre have returned to this milieu is because of how unusual it seems to us in modern-day society.  The Regency era was much more formal in its speech than present-day English-speaking society, at least when it comes to middle class people and above.  The fashions people wore were much different.  The way people thought then has diverged just enough from today that it makes for fascinating reading . . . yet it’s not so far in the past that we have no referents whatsoever.

So my guess is, there’s a mixture of familiarity in what we see in the Regency period — comfort, if you will — and unfamiliarity, and that’s what these excellent novelists see in it.  Because if you’re writing fantasy, and you can come up with a great way to incorporate a fantasy element into this interesting, turbulent time, why not do it?

At any rate, if you love Jane Austen, love Austen pastiches, love Austen-inspired works, or simply love the Regency Era with fantasy idea as a whole, you’ll get a kick out of Kowal’s two alternate Regencies as they’re fun, fast, faithful reads that don’t cheat the reader.  But do yourself a favor, please:  read these other great books I’ve referenced, too, even if you have to go to the library to read the Norton-Edghill collaborations.  (You’ll be glad you did.)