Glamour in Glass

Glamour in Glass  - Mary Robinette Kowal Much like the previous book in the series, Glamour in Glass starts slowly in Kowal's charming, Austenesque way, and builds to a page-turning, action filled climax.

The title of this book refers to experiments in recording a glamour in glass, much the same way as sound can be recorded on wax cylinders or records. One of the truly stand-out aspects of these books are the attention to detail paid to the world building, to the extent of inventing terminology and scientific (within the context of the world) reasonings and theories as to how the fantastic element, glamour, works. This book does an excellent job of introducing this material without ever becoming dry or boring, and using that world-building in the later, most action-packed sections of the book.

The stage this time is Belgium; Brussels and a small town nearby. It is set not long after the previous novel, following a successful commission for the Prince Regent, and occurs during the time of Napolean quitting his exile on Elba and attempting to retake his empire - leaving our heroes caught between Napolean's revived army and the army of the Duke of Wellington, just prior to what would be, in our own history, the battle of Waterloo.

What begins as another charming Austen-like tale gradually evolves into something much more, involving espionage, politics and the horror of being a foreigner in a country at war with itself. It does this without ever losing the regency style, despite the subject matter being far from anything Austen herself ever put to paper. There is real pain and tragedy in this novel, far more emotionally striking for its context than much of the overdone violence and grimness so prevalent in recent modern fantasy. If the first novel were a fun, relaxing romp through regency romance, this one is both something more and less. It gives up that relaxing lightness but in return delivers something very real, very human, and very affecting.

Kowal is a breath of fresh air and has, I think, brought something quitedifferent and original to the corpus of fantasy fiction with this series. I cannot recommend it highly enough.