Review: Valour and Vanity

posted in: Reviews | 0

Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories, #4)Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Poor Jane and Vincent cannot get a break.
On the trip to Venezia their ship is assaulted by corsairs and all their goods are stolen, their host Lord Byron is nowhere in sight, and they’re now forced to face the city penniless, without documents nor a letter of presentation.
So begins the latest Glamourist book, a tale of deceptions, financial struggle, and heists. With nuns. And racing gondolas.

Mild spoilers follow…

This book has often been described as “if Jane Austen had written Ocean’s Eleven”, but the caper part proper (while immensely fun and satisfying) only happens towards the end of the book, so those looking for non-stop action will be disappointed. Jane and Vincent are artists, not action heroes!

In fact, there is a whole section around the middle where the overarching mystery is almost dropped in favour of more practical concerns: how to survive in Venice without a job or money. In a time where long-distance communication meant it could take well over two months to get a reply, it really shows how much people relied on paperwork. Without documents or letters of introductions, not only cannot Jane and Vincent prove who they are, or that they are indeed nobles, but they cannot even get a line of credit nor rent a place for the night, nor can they get the police (or even simple shop sellers) to trust them.
The hardships also put a strain on the relationship, as Vincent is unable to find work (Glamour doesn’t sell in a recession), and he’s less than happy that Jane is the one providing for the both of them. Once more, he ends up overexerting himself in the process.
When Jane, after weeks of privations, treats herself to an expensive bar of scented soap, Vincent dumps his frustrations on her, and it’s not pretty.

About the main plot, the bad guys seemed to want a little more depth. We never know how they got their hands on the item that made them so interested in the Vincents, nor who they are behind the fake names they use for themselves (also, they used the seeds name in the singular, which was so incredibly distracting). In the beginning it seemed as if they were connected to a bigger political faction, but in the end they were just selling to the highest bidder.

Apart from that, it is a very fine book, probably the best in the Glamourist sequels so far.

View all my reviews