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Without a Summer: Glamourist Histories    by Mary Robinette Kowal order for
Without a Summer
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Without a Summer is the third (following Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass) in Mary Robinette Kowal's charming Glamourist Histories that insert magic into an Austen-era England. In this world, the magical art of illusion is valued just as much as good looks, or artistic or musical ability.

The first episode brought together plain but skilled Jane Ellsworth and brooding David Vincent, whose talent as an illusionist is stunning. They worked well together and ended up sealing their partnership in marriage. The second episode took them to Belgium where they aided the war effort at great personal risk.

As Without a Summer opens, Jane is home in Long Parkmead, where her lovely sister Melody is depressed and lonely. Jane invites Melody to return with them to London for the Season. There, Lord and Lady Vincent have a commission from the Baron of Stratton to work on his ballroom.

There is trouble in the country, with Luddite riots and (false) rumors that coldmongers are causing the unseasonably cold weather. As the Vincents begin working on their commission, Melody gets close to the Strattons' son Alastar, which worries Jane as he is an Irish Catholic and she believes their union to be impossible.

As all this develops, Vincent's estranged father, the Earl of Verbury, shows up in town and meetings ensue. The Earl claims to want a reconciliation, but is controlling and manipulative. When his plot comes to fruition, Jane and her husband end up in very serious trouble, suspected of participation in a coldmongers' revolt.

Without a Summer is an intriguing episode in an appealing series. Don't miss A Note on History at the back of the book, that goes into the cause of the cold weather the summer of 1816, as well as the Luddite movement, both part of this story's background. And fans can look forward to more Glamourist action in the fourth book, Valour and Vanity.

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