I just finished readying Mary Robinette Kowal‘s book Shades of Milk and Honey which is often described as ‘Jane Austen with Magic’ which so far as I can tell is accurate. (There is magic and I trust that is Austen-esque.) This is clearly a large step outside of my normal Epic Fantasy genre reading and I would have ignored the cover illustration completely in the bookstore (had it a copy, which is didn’t). And even if I had, the Jane Austen part would have scared me away based solely on reputation than actual opinion (and that I couldn’t get through ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’). But I bought it soley on who wrote it. And how I know about her wouldn’t be possible even 5 years ago.
But first, a mini-review.
Having suffered through some ‘classic’ Victorian era books in highschool, I somewhat feared that this would be as equally difficult to get around just the phrasing, but it was a quick, and enjoyable read — I think I went through it in 3 sittings (though one was exceptionally long). The characters fit my mental model of how they would behave and act in ‘proper society’ and the magic system seemed perfectly natural (and thankfully the origins of which were not explained). The book itself (at least the hardcover) has the pages not chopped for even-ness which lends, I think, the appropriate amount of ‘era’ to the book.
Oh. And I only found one type-o; ‘colour’ in one sentence and ‘color’ in the next which is really an spell-checking dictionary problem.
Now for the real reason for the post; an author who is active in various social media platforms can dramatically affect how a reader experiences there work. And not just in a sales perspective (though certainly that does help). Here is the list of ways in this particular case.
- Mary has been one of the hosts of Writing Excuses for a while now so I get a dose of what she sounds like in 15 minute chunks every Monday. What this did was ‘change’ the voice in my head while I was reading. This is not something I had noticed before but it is usually male voice, but this time it was not only female, but Mary
- Also from Writing Excuses I knew that the Austen has used [almost] every work in one of her original works as Mary took the complete works of Austen, uniqued it and then used that as her spell-checking dictionary. Which. Is. Awesome. And while appreciating this fact runs slightly counter to one of the themes of the book which is to appreciate the beauty in art without dissecting in, it is still awesome.
- At one point there is a puppet show in the story, and while it is explained, nothing beats actually seeing it. Which you would, if you followed her twitter and watched this interview in which she performs the show
- Which she is well qualified to do since she is a Puppeteer first. That itself is hilarious when she is tweeting about making puppet.
Time to glue his toenails. I’m debating about inserting the glue under his skin or on the surface.
— Mary Robinette Kowal (@MaryRobinette) March 12, 2012
- Mary blogs frequently sometimes posting period costume which helps complete the mental picture of things while reading.
We (I) completely blew the social media aspect of promoting Beautiful Testing. Mary seems to have it nailed. And I have Glamour in Glass already on order.