Audiobook Review: Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Glamourist Histories #3
Also by this author: Ghost Talkers
Published by Audible Studios on April 2nd 2013
Length: 8 hours 35 minutes
Also in this series: Shades of Milk and Honey
Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane Ellsworth and Vincent. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where magic is real, nothing—even the domestic sphere—is quite what it seems.
Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The year is unseasonably cold. No one wants to be outside and Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a bad one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to take it, and take Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London.
Once there, talk is of nothing but the crop failures caused by the cold and increased unemployment of the coldmongers, which have provoked riots in several cities to the north. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, none of which really helps Melody’s chances for romance. It’s not long before Jane and Vincent realize that in addition to getting Melody to the church on time, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of international proportions.
In the third book of the Glamourist Histories, Kowal keeps the story and plot fresh and continues to give us more of that fantastical regency romance that works incredibly well. What can I say? Turns out that even with all the grimdark books that I love, I have a very soft spot for a well written regency period story with a splash of magic (or glamour) to spice it up just a tad.
After a visit with her family, Jane and Vincent head to London for a commission. Seeing her sister, Melody, with poor marriage prospects at home, they bring her along both for company and the hopes that with the more active social scene, Melody will be able to meet an agreeable match. Because, you know, it wouldn’t be regency romance if there wasn’t some young woman who was threatened with spinsterhood when she reaches her ripe ol’ early 20s without yet landing herself a husband. (I say that in jest, I really have zero complaints about this, its just so different from what we are used to today that it really amuses me).
The season has been unusually cool, and rumors start amassing about glamourists who are impacting the weather, causing the climate changes. As you might expect, Jane finds herself in the middle of the chaos, controversy, mystery, whatever you would like to call it.
The plot is interesting, and keeps a good pace. Jane has to judge who is trust worthy and who isn’t, which when at court, can be a tricky thing to achieve.
The book explores not just the continued evolution and strengthening of Jane’s relationship with Vincent, but it also provides wonderful opportunities for Jane to reflect on her relationship with her sister. There are wonderful moments that explore trust and assumptions, so much more to this than just a simple mystery to unravel. Again, I enjoyed it quite a bit and look forward to the next installment.
The narration continues to be great. This is one of those series that I enjoy listening to so much, I imagine switching formats and reading a print version. Why read when I can have the author expertly read it to me herself?
I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.