Jane Austen with magic, but don't let that put you off - this is not Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, it is its own unique story.
In addition to painting and music, a young lady is expected to have mastered the art of glamour, to entertain guests and to decorate their home. In a plot owing a lot to Sense and Sensibility, yet having enough originality to keep it interesting, Kowal has woven a nineteenth century tale of love, talent, and manners. Jane is a plain spinster of 28, talented yet convinced that she is unlikely to ever find a husband, and resigned to this. Her sister Melody is everything she isn't: pretty, untalented, headstrong, and not very bright. Melody attracts trouble like bees to honey, and it is up to Jane to sort out the trouble while staying as proper as possible - and maybe finding her own happiness.
Mary Robinette Kowal does a good job of narrating, if you are concerned (as I usually am) about an author narrating their own work, put your concerns to rest: Kowal narrates professionally as well. I would give five stars for narration, except that she does not have a native English accent, and it sounded a bit forced at times - but it was consistent and easy on the ear, and she did a good job differentiating the characters.
Peter Forbes does a fantastic job with the narrating, which kept me with the book even when the story was getting ridiculous.
I'm giving this one only three stars for the simple reason that the narrator (also the author) reads the whole book as if it is written in one paragraph. I had to listen to part of it at half-speed just to be able to keep up, and I kept skipping backwards to catch things again.
When I did catch them, though, there were some great tales in this one - I think I'll be looking for more of his work in dead-tree format next time.
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