3.5 stars, actually.
When the Jane Austen Centre has a positive blurb on the front cover of a book, you know you've got something special.
This is the story of Jane Ellsworth, a talented near-spinster in Regency England; her beautiful but otherwise prosaic sister, Melody; and their assorted family, neighbors, friends, servants, and visitors. If you've read or seen any of Jane Austen's work, you know the drill: Everything is implied, never spoken. And in this book, this extends to the use of glamours--illusions typically used to create a mood, a scene, a feeling. Jane is quite adept in this art, which every young lady is trained in along with embroidery, music, drawing, etc.
As the book opens, a new family has come to live in the neighborhood, and Jane becomes friends with the master's sister, Beth Dunkirk, who in turn introduces Jane to her glamour teacher, Mr. Vincent. Vincent opens Jane's eyes to new ways of performing glamour, despite his scowling, taciturn manner.
At the same time, intriques, ethical questions, and class tensions are all around them. Who will Mr. Dunkirk select for a bride? How about Captain Livingston, the nephew of Lady FitzCameron? Who might be using glamour to mask shameful poverty or physical imperfections? Who is meeting whom in the dead of night?
I really enjoyed this one--it's more accessible than Austen, and much lighter in tone. The fact that it's the first in a series is a bonus. The story is a bit thin in this debut novel, and somewhat predictable if you know Austen at all, but I notice that the next two books are thicker--a good sign, I think. I'm looking forward to diving back into this world that Robinette Kowal has spun out of the ether.