Of Noble Family

Review of: Of Noble Family

Reviewed by:
On May 12, 2015
Last modified:May 12, 2015


18873823Title: Of Noble Family
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Glamourist Histories, book 5
Genre: Historical fantasy, manner punk, comedy of manners

Opening sentence:

The presence of an infant in any gathering offers all the substance for conversation on might require.

I found Of Noble Family to be captivating! I had a very hard time not stealing away to read it even at work and it kept me up far past my bedtime both evenings I was reading. It has been a while since that happened to this extend.

I love books that are focused on relationships and small situations and the emotional impact of such combined with a good plot. And this has both in spades. The plot is for once not a mystery but rather a family drama and it is just delightful to read. It is quite a sad story but filled with optimism, which is something I seem to crave right now.

The pacing and the foreshadowing of events are really skillfully done. I was genuinely fearful for Jane’s life at one point in the book – it was during my commute so I really hoped nothing would happen so I wouldn’t be crying my eyes out on the bus.

The amount of care and thought that Kowal buts into the historical research is part of what makes this series special. The people of color speak in a local dialect that feels very real but is still quite readable – you just need to sound the words out in your head – I do that with all dialog anyway so for me it was no bother – it just added to authenticity of the book.

One of the remarkable things about Of Noble Family and the rest of the glamourist Histories is that it deals frankly with issues of health, both physical and mental while staying within the voice of the series. Many characters in this volume has mental or physical problems that they need to deal with and that their surroundings need to deal with.  It is great to see Jane and David be careful and mindful of each others health. David has been physically and mentally abused by his father as a child – and issue that is a constant theme in this volume. Also Jane’s mother’s anxiety and hypochondria is  addressed in the book and actually helps Jane handle other situations.

To add to the contrast and tension between Jane and David’s relationship are the stiffness and under the surface hostility that other conversations have (yes that is veague – well spoilers). The constant need for facéde even when dining with family. The constant semi-public sphere that the nobles have to navigate even when at home.

I am not black nor do I have a family background of slavery (on either side of the issue – as far as I know). However it is a subject that really interests me both the slavery and the abolitionist movement. Denmark’s background as a nation that has had slaves in the colonies is something rarely talked about in danish history books. Of Noble Family takes a hard look at the plantations in the caribbean and I found Jane and David’s handling of the situation fascinating and believable at the same time.

I am sad that the series is over as it has been a joy to read and follow it. I do however look forward to see what Kowal will write next. I enjoy her short fiction so it will be really interesting to see what she will be up to!

I wholeheartedly recommend this final book in the series. It is good enough that I have been reading bits out to my boyfriend.

I have reviewed the first three books in the series here

The stats

Published: 2015 by Tor Books
Read: May 10 to 12, 2015
Format: ebook

Author: Female, white, USA
The protagonist: Jane Vincent, female, noble, British, white, artist

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