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Valour And Vanity: (The Glamourist Histories #4) Paperback – 15 May 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Corsair (15 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 147211020X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472110206
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 651,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary Robinette Kowal was the 2008 recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a Hugo nominee for her story "Evil Robot Monkey." Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov's, and several Year's Best anthologies. She is the author of Shades of Milk and Honey (Tor 2010), the fantasy novel that Jane Austen might have written.

Mary, a professional puppeteer and voice actor, has performed for LazyTown (CBS), the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Pictures and founded Other Hand Productions. Her designs have garnered two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve. She also records fiction for authors such as Kage Baker, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi.

She is serving her second term as Secretary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Mary lives in Portland, OR with her husband Rob and eleven manual typewriters. Visit

Product Description


With magic, manners, mayhem, and no small measure of derring-do - the Glamourist Histories are everything you could wish for in a sleek, fashionable fantasy series. A shimmering adventure for history buffs and glamour enthusiasts alike. (Cherie Priest)

With the grace of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, a touch of classic fairy tale magic, and an action-packed ending, [the Glamourist Histories] will appeal to fans of Jane Austen, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Susannah Clarke, and even Jasper Fforde. (Library Journal)

Kowal has captured both the style and content of an Austen novel, adding her own speculative fiction twist. Readers who enjoyed such novels as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell will find [the Glamourist Histories] appealing as well (The Jane Austen Centre, Bath)

Startlingly good. (Patrick Rothfuss)

Simply enchanting. (John Scalzi)

A delightful read, with an examination of the craft and emotion of art combined with deftly drawn characters, laugh-out-loud wit and a magical re-imagining of Georgian society. (SFX)

I love these books! They're an ideal mix between adventure, character, and magic. (Brandon Sanderson)

In her Glamourist Histories series, she captures the tone of an Austen or a Heyer, while setting the stories in a world where ladies of Quality must manipulate Glamour to create intricate illusions. (USA Today)

Book Description

The magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean's Eleven, Valour and Vanity is a Regency version of a heist movie with a healthy dose of magic.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By G. Hanhart on 19 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Another enjoyable entry in this series set in an alternative Regency period.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Exciting and engaing 26 May 2014
By Cissa - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are not reading this series by Kowal, this book- the fourth- is a fine place to start. Its tone is a lot different than that of the previous novels, though- they were more "Jane Austen with magic", and this one is "if Austen wrote a heist/intrigue novel..."

We get to see much more of Jane's and Vincent's relationship, and how they are learning to work together and rely on each other, albeit through struggles both within the relationship and caused by outside forces. Fot this reason, it seemed more intimate to me than the previous novels in the series, much as I loved them.

Also, the plot is more obviously exciting! Pirates! Swindles! Reversals of fortune! Revenge! Secret motivations and spying! and even Lord Byron! Kowal did a brilliant job of winding the very personal and intimate into the more carefully convoluted and eventful plot, with each reflecting on the other in many ways. Wonderfully wrought!

The other characters come alive, too, both the Good Guys and the not. I especially loved the portrayals of the nuns. Having attended a Catholic women's college, I learned great respect and admiration for nuns, and these are GREAT nuns, each very distinct.

I also appreciated that the glamour- the magic- was described more precisely, giving me a better idea of what it can and cannot do.

This was an excellent novel that kept me up a few times reading when I ought to have been asleep- and that's rare for me these days.

Highly recommended, for a perspective on the Regency era and for those who would love a very unique magical system in fantasy, or who have been reading the series. I think this one is my favorite in it thus far.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
SO much better than the rest of the series! 21 May 2014
By How Roode - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having just finished Valour and Vanity, I find myself wishing that the rest of the books in the Glamourist Histories had been heist novels! This book is head and shoulders above the other three in the series, both in terms of character development (and likability), and of plot, not to mention the evocation of time and place.

What most impressed me in this book was how Kowal managed to balance the intrigue and suspense of a heist story with the unsettlingly intimate and personal portrayal of a marriage in an all-too-common crisis. I suspect I am not the only wife to feel that I've had the exact same argument as the Vincents, almost word for word. Had that struggle made up the majority of the novel, it would have been too heavy-handed, but when interwoven with the mystery and action of a pirate attack, spy activities, and a quest for revenge, it makes for an exciting and compelling novel.

In short, each Glamourist book has been markedly better than the last, so I can't wait for the final installment!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mastering illusions 8 May 2014
By raesdays - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have not yet read the three books before this, but that did not keep me from enjoying Valour and Vanity tremendously, and it should not stop you from picking up any book from this series either.

The Regency era is Jane Austen’s England. The Prince Regent, who is the son of Mad King George (remember him from learning about the revolution, my American friends?), is a big proponent of excess and art, and Jane and Vincent work as his glamourists. Glamour is basically magic that creates illusions by manipulating light and sound.

And that becomes Vincent and Jane’s trade in this novel: not glamour, but illusion.

When the couple heads to Murano to find a glassmaker, they are waylaid by pirates. And that is the least alarming thing that happens to them on this trip. They end up swindled by those they thought were friends and can’t leave Murano until they pay back what they owe.

It seems so simple right? If you lose your money on vacation, you go back to your hotel and call the bank, or your mom, or the American Embassy, if things really go wrong. But Jane and Vincent don’t have telephones or airplanes or online banking. Penniless, and with no practical skills save for glamour, they are left with nothing but each other. Well, that and Jane’s wedding ring, which they pawn for cash.

We never have quests any more. When is the last time you had to go somewhere to find something or bring it back or travel to create something you need or fulfil your destiny? We don’t even have to go to the mall at Christmas time, you can just order everything online. Our problem solving these days is very different from what Jane and Vincent face.

But what they go through is familiar. I’ve been poor and struggling to pay the rent. I’ve bought something fancy and small as a treat just to beat myself up about the extra $5 it cost. I haven’t been able to find a job and have lied about how great I’m doing in the meantime. And I’ve fought with loved ones and tried to hide the painful truth. And I’ve turned to something drastic to get back on my feet again.

When Vincent gets to the edge of what he can take, the couple gets a lucky break. (As so often happens in life, as well.) Their lucky break allows them to make a plan to take back what was stolen from them. Using every glamourist trick they know, plus new tricks in the physical realm, they embark on their dangerous plan–with the help of some new friends.

This heist is more fun than any I’ve ever been a part of (which, ok, is actually none in real life), and it includes feisty nuns. So while Jane and Vincent’s plan may go wrong, those reading about it can’t lose.

I loved this story and I love Jane and Vincent. I’ve been known to roll my eyes at romance every now and again, but I could read about this couple forever. Neither of them is perfect, and they fight and struggle like everyone else. Romance isn’t nonstop perfection or the absence of conflict. That is exhausting and impossible. But their love seems true–true to life and true to each other.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Pirates, Lord Byron and some feisty nuns! 30 April 2014
By Suzanne - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I have thoroughly enjoyed the first three books of the Glamourist History series, which has only gotten better as it goes on, but when I read the description of the fourth book I wasn’t positive that improving trend would continue, at least for me. Pirates? The Regency version of a heist film? Those may appeal to many but aren’t my preferred cup of tea. I love that the earlier books incorporate historic events into an alternate Regency world that shimmers with glamour--a magical art of illusion. Napoleon’s wars, the Luddite uprising, and the 1816 climate disruption are integral parts of their narratives, but the new book’s plot synopsis does not hint at a similar use of history. Still, I trust Mary Robinette Kowal’s storytelling skills so there was no way I would miss her latest. I just hoped I would love Valour and Vanity as dearly as the others.

A tip from Lord Byron sends Jane and her husband Vincent to the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre where an ancient but still vibrant lion glamour roars and struts among the rubble. That beautiful lion is forever fixed in place because glamoured images made with traditional methods cannot be moved, but Jane and Vincent hope to perfect a new way of creating glamour by weaving its threads into molten glass which could then be easily transported. To that end they are headed to the island of Murano, famous for its glass-making artistry. They have been on a mostly joyous Continental trip with the rest of Jane’s family, celebrating her sister Melody's wedding, but Jane is glad she and Vincent will soon be alone because her mother can tend to be high strung. Sure enough Mrs. Ellsworth musters a Mrs. Bennet worthy panic as Jane and Vincent’s ship is about to depart. She’s heard a rumor pirates rove the Gulf of Venice! Pirates!

That, of course, is absurd, as Jane and Vincent know. No pirates patrol this part of the Mediterranean. Which makes it all the more shocking when rakishly dressed buccaneers board their boat, robbing passengers and crew. “It is absurd that my first thought is a desire to keep this from your mother” (25) Vincent says to Jane as he prepares to help the crew defend the ship. But Vincent is knocked out and Jane and Vincent lose all of their money, luggage, and jewelry--even Jane’s wedding ring--and are almost kidnapped for ransom.

They are saved by Signor Sanuto, a kindly Murano banker and a fellow passenger. He pays the pirates off and allows Jane and Vincent to stay in his beautiful palazzo. They were supposed be hosted by Lord Byron, an old school chum of Vincent’s, but he’s skipped town to avoid an irate ex-lover. Sanuto lends them clothing and secures them a line of credit until they can access their funds in England.

This frees Jane and Vincent to begin their mission, but they immediately run into obstacles. After Napoleon’s occupation Murano’s glassmakers are wary and refuse to work with the glamourists, sure their real goal is stealing trade secrets. Again it is Sanuto who steps in, using his clout to persuade one glassmaker to reconsider, but even with Sanuto’s help the terms are limited and expensive.

Still Jane and Vincent make progress toward their goal, and are about to celebrate their success when Sanuto disappears and everything falls apart. Their line of credit dries up, authorities kick them out of Sanuto’s palazzo, someone empties their English bank accounts, and they now owe money all over town. Lord Byron, who had briefly turned up, is again missing leaving Jane and Vincent penniless, homeless criminals, unable to contact family and not allowed to leave until they pay their creditors. Added to that, the one glass ball they had successfully inscribed with glamour is gone.

Jane and Vincent are barely managing to eat, but Vincent concocts a reckless and dangerous plan to turn their fortunes around. Highly suspenseful and almost too exciting, Valour and Vanity held me enthralled, and I loved seeing how Jane and Vincent cope with their difficulties. The book’s pleasures are many. Though partially in ruins post-Napoleon, the beauty of Murano’s island city shines through the pages and vivid scenes of its daily life satisfied my history lust. Most charming is the wonderful cast of characters who help with Vincent’s plan. These include a pious but determined group of nuns, a resourceful puppeteer, and the colorful Lord Byron himself, whose wild daring and loyalty to his friends knows no bounds.
Wonderful fun! 4 Jun. 2015
By Amanda C. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This was my first experience with Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series; and indeed, my first experience with her as an author. I picked up the book on a whim at the library because it contains two things I absolutely love: Relationships in the Regency, era and magic. In fact, as I read the synopsis on the back, I wondered to myself: Why don’t more people experiment with putting magic in historical settings? It’s a fantastic way to add spice to an oft-trod path, as well as reshuffling the social power imbalances of the time. For example, there’s no reason to lock your characters into a dull, painful retelling of sexism & racism when your characters can summon fire and illusions, because we’ve already left “historical accuracy” behind.

Needless to say, I was quite excited by the book’s premise. I had also heard good things about Kowal from fellow readers and from folks like John Scalzi, who has spoken highly of her on his blog before. So picking it up was an easy choice.

And you know what my favorite thing about this book is? It’s fun. Not the turn-your-brain-off kind of fun, where you know what you’re enjoying is problematic and plot-holed as hell but you feel like you’ve got to go along for the ride anyway, but actual, genuine fun. Valour and Vanity engaged me on all levels, keeping me both entertained and challenged as I read. It was very difficult to put down!

The characters were instantly compelling, with deep inner lives and emotions that felt natural and believable. I imagined myself spending time with each of them, soaking in their fantastic stories and conversing with them on a wide variety of topics. Their relationships had an equally enjoyable flow, and at no point did I feel as though I was being told I should idolize or romanticize an abusive marriage/romantic relationship, as so often happens with novels in the historical genre. Better yet, the plot was also sharply intriguing, and actually surprised me in a lot of places! I never thought to expect heists, political intrigue, engineering, and devious planning to happen all in the same book. It was great!

Valour and Vanity also has a refreshingly honest depiction of two things way too many authors get wrong: Triggers of past traumas, and depression. I don’t want to go into too much detail for fear of spoilers, but never before have I read a fictional piece where a female character experienced a triggering event in a way that felt natural and real. There weren’t any bizarre hysterics, or sudden fainting, or any other tropes female characters usually get saddled with in order to show how “emotional” they are. Triggers aren’t always obvious or even noticeable to the people around us; especially not if we’re in public, or situations where we don’t feel comfortable expressing ourselves. Jane struggles to regain control of her inner motives just as fiercely as I have in the past; it’s not something she manifests physically until she reaches a breaking point.

Later on, Vincent experiences a bout of depression that felt hauntingly familiar. He also doesn’t do what I expect most male protagonists to do in historical-era novels, which is immediately take things out on his wife. While things are clearly tense between them, at no time did I feel as though he was being aggressive, or turning into the emotionless fencepost that so many other male characters turn into when they become depressed. The onus was also never on Jane to “fix” him or to “restore” him somehow; they were his emotions, and he dealt with them in his own time.

Both of these things might seem small to some folks; but for me, seeing details like this treated with such respect really meant a lot, and even restored a bit of my faith in the genre. It was refreshing to see, and only added to the fantastic spell this book casts.

All in all, I’d say this was an amazing book that I can’t recommend highly enough. I also can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the series!
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