It's not true that
you can't con an honest man.
But can he con you?
You know I like Robinette Kowal's "Jane Austen with illusion magic" novels. On, before I go on, did I mention that I watched Austenland, the movie made out of that Shannon Hale book? I don't think it had the budget to be all that great, but as far as popcorn goes, I liked it fine. Maybe worth throwing on Netflix, if you like romcoms or Austen or just feel like it. Okay, back to Valour & Vanity. Oh, so extraneous u's, British spelling! I've got a bunch scattered in my spelling. I don't know why; I remember deciding to rep the ampersand, & I am not shy about owning up to my pretentions, so I would if I could. The nearest guess I can come up with is that I'm a terrible speller & I just learned the rule wrong, or maybe British anthropology texts? I certainly have seen "artefact" a lot. A mystery to me, & & can't decide if I should try to scrub it out or just accept it as it is. I err with the later.
This time really back to V&V. So you remember the premise? Jane is a plausibly feminist woman in Regency England, & she has picaresque adventures with her husband, Sir Vincent...& they are both Glamourists, masters of illusion (the only kind of magic that exists-- or at least that we've seen so far). Romance is a theme, but so is adventure; they've tangled with Napoleon! Unlike a lot of Regency writing, Robinette Kowal constantly puts her characters at the intersection of race, class & gender issues. When ends up resulting is a fun story with complexity & depth. Plus also, for instance, pirates. Or Lord Byron, in this one. Byron is mentioned early, & his first appearance had me in stitches.
I liked this book quite a bit but I should tell you: the last act is the best one. When I was talking about The Goblin Emperor, I mentioned how stupid protagonists are my pet peeve, yeah? Well, I take it back when it comes to Mary Robinette Kowal's characters; their flaws are her strong suit. It could be easy to turn Jane into a Mary Sue, into an anachronistic character who uses modern feminism to knock down straw men, but Jane is a character, with her own biases & blind spots. So when I start yelling at the book-- "no, can't you see, gasp, sputter!"-- it is, what do the kids call it: dramatic irony. & thank heavens, she doesn't leave the reader on the hook too long. The characters do figure it out & then they do something about it. They get all Heist Movie. They provide...leverage.