Glamour in Glass
Newly married glamourists Jane and David Vincent have just completed their most prestigious commission yet for the Prince Regent. But Jane is hurt that she seems to be the last person to be told about her husband’s plans for them to visit a colleague in Belgium, in order to develop new methods of working glamour. But after all, with Napoleon exiled to Elba, what possible danger can there be?
I enjoyed the second of Kowal’s alternate, magic-permeated Regencies more than her first. The tensions as Vincent, a natural loner, and Jane negotiate their new roles as spouses and collaborators gives it a stronger focus, and having two well-develped characters centre-stage disguises the fact that the peripheral characters lack depth.
I’m not sure why Jane should be surprised by her husband’s familiarity with firearms, considering that he comes from a class where hunting and shooting were principal leisure activities. Similarly she has a distinctly modern sensibility towards corporal punishment, given that she lives in an era when flogging was widespread.
Other niggles include: Eton is a public school, not a university, and in any case the only place to study law in England at that time was at the Inns of Court. I can’t visualise Kowal’s hybrid ‘phaeton dogcart’, given that the former is an expensive, four-wheeled carriage and the latter a cheaper two-wheeled one. And would a lowly lieutenant have quite as much power as one minor character? Some of the translations struck me as too literal: My French-educated mother confirmed that no native speaker would say ‘Vous devez etre Jane.’ And Kowal’s blurb-writer does her a disservice by betraying too many plot twists.
On the other hand, it’s nice to find a depiction of the Prince Regent that doesn’t simply turn him into a buffoon. Overall, a vast improvement.