Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Book Review: Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal

Pros: considerate treatment of several… delicate issues, wonderful depiction of a loving relationship, interesting plot

Cons: last of the series

Vincent receives word of his father’s demise.  His brother, the new Earl of Verbury, has suffered a recent accident and requests that Vincent go to Antigua to deal with affairs on their estate there and look for a possible updated will.  Reluctantly Vincent and Jane take ship, where Jane becomes increasingly ill.  It’s soon apparent that she’s with child.  It’s equally apparent, when they arrive on the island, that affairs on the plantation are not as they expected.

You’ll want to refresh your memory of the events of the previous books, particularly book three, Without a Summer, before reading this one, as Vincent’s family plays an important role and his childhood and other events from his past are revisited.  Similarly, Jane’s problems from the end of book two, Glamour in Glass, are brought up a lot with regards to her pregnancy.

Kowal writes with consideration about the treatment of the slaves on the plantation, showing Vincent and Jane’s ignorance and reaction to what’s going on, from disciplinary measures and substandard housing to the ever present threat of rape from their owners and overseers.  There are a few scenes that are uncomfortable to read in the way that it’s easier to look away than to face the realities of the past, even when delivered through fiction.  This is equally true with regards to some of the difficulties Jane faces with her pregnancy.

It’s such a pleasure seeing a loving marital relationship in a fantasy book depicted with such intimacy (by which I mean openness, not graphic content).  The way they know each others habits and can understand their moods based on small gestures and noises is wonderful to see in print, as is their honest desire to help each other cope with the difficulties they face.

It’s sad to see such a wonderful series end.  I really enjoyed the touch of magic Kowal brought to the Regency period and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Out April 28th.

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