Without a Summer, by Mary Robinette Kowal, was published in 2013 by Tor. It is the sequel to Glamour in Glass.
After a dramatic trip to Belgium, Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The spring is unseasonably cold, and no one wants to be outside. Mr. Ellsworth is concerned about the harvest, since a poor one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of local eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent London family, they take it, and bring Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good, and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London. Talk here frequently turns to increased unemployment of coldmongers and riots in nearby villages by Luddites concerned that their way of life is becoming untenable. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, which does not really help Melody’s chances for romance. It doesn’t take long for Jane and Vincent to realize that in addition to arranging a wedding, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of national proportions.
Without a Summer is not quite as good as I thought Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass were, but it is far from bad. I loved, once again, the nods to Jane Austen—specifically, Emma—that Kowal placed in the book, and I especially enjoyed seeing more development from Jane, who makes plenty of foolish mistakes in this book and learns exactly why she made them and how to change that fact.
Melody also had a lot of development from the first book, and Kowal exhibits very well how much she has changed since then. There’s a scene close to the end of the book that shows exactly how much Melody has changed and how that has changed the dynamic between the two sisters, and it was wonderful to see that development brought to fruition in that scene and in the ones after.
Not much development is made in terms of glamour and the technique Jane and Vincent discovered in the last book, which was slightly disappointing. Kowal placed the more glamour-heavy aspects of her world aside to deal with political intrigue, instead. It made for a thrilling court scene at the end, but I missed the aspects of the world that made it so fantastic (meaning “fantasy”, not “awesome,” although it is also that).
Kudos to Kowal, who seemed to be taking the plot in one direction (at one point, during a Jane & Vincent Revelation, I thought “Ah ha! This is what is going to happen!”) and then skillfully turned it around before I even noticed. I love it when plots surprise me!
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Warnings: Some small innuendo between Jane and her husband.
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
“The weather truly has been wretched.” Mr. Colgrove vied for Melody’s attention. “I was telling Lady Vincent that we had dismissed our coldmongers because they were an unnecessary expense.”
Another gentleman tucked his hands behind his back with a complacent look. “As did we. They demand high wages for the little they do.”
Miss Godwin tilted her head, ostrich feathers waving gracefully above her hair, and pointed her fan at Mr. Colgrove. “If the weather changes, what will you do then?”
“Why, ask Mr. Moyer to cool the room. What is a coldmonger, but a glamourist who can do only one thing? Why retain one when you can hire someone who can do both?”
Without A Summer is a little disappointing in terms of worldbuilding; I had wished to see more aspects of glamour and more insight into the technique Jane and Vincent developed in Glamour in Glass. However, the character interactions and the political intrigue are very well-done and lend themselves well to the development of Jane & Co., and even though there was less glamour in this novel, it had double the amount of character development to make up for it. I especially loved the tribute to Emma (complete with quotes!).
You can buy this book here: Without a Summer