Feb. 19th, 2016

purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
Mary Robinette Kowal's Jane Austen-esque fantasy stories get quite widely referenced (at least in the online places I tend to hang out). I've nothing against the concept of Regency-based fantasy - in fact I'm a fan in general of non-medieval fantasy. However, I'll admit I entered this with a certain scepticism about Jane Austen-esque fantasy. Jane Austen was poking gentle fun at a society with which she was deeply familiar and which no longer exists. I couldn't quite see how a modern author could pull that off, even with the addition of fantasy elements.

More under the cut )

This book could easily have been terrible. Fortunately Kowal has clearly extensively researched the 18th century, has a deft hand at reproducing Jane Austen's style and has avoided the trap of imposing modern views on her characters. Still, I really can't see the point of poking gentle fun at a society 200 years past when it has already been done to perfection by someone in that society itself*. I think, the bottom line is, that if I want to read Jane Austen, I'll read Jane Austen and even with the introduction of fantasy elements Shades of Milk and Honey isn't bringing enough new to the table to make me really see the point of it.

Maybe the problem is just that I'm too fond of Austen. I don't want to read derivative works, even good derivative works, because I don't really perceive any need for it.

* Yes, I realise said society is closely related to our own and many of the human failings Austen highlights are universal, but nevertheless her stories are very much of their time and place** and Kowal is really not trying to push the envelope and draw out any parallels to modern times that one couldn't infer from reading Austen straight.

** And yes, there have been several very successful modern retellings of Austen's stories (many of which I rate highly), but I would argue that all of them stumble in places when trying to reframe certain crises in modern terms.


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