The magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean's Eleven
Valour in Vanity is a Regency version of a heist movie with a healthy dose of magic sprinkled in.
After Melody's wedding, the Ellsworths and Vincents accompany the young couple on the their tour of the continent. Jane and Vincent plan to separate from the party and travel to Murano to study with glassblowers there, but their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs while en route. It is their good fortune that they are not enslaved, but they lose everything to the pirates and arrive in Murano destitute.
Fortunately, one of the gentlemen from the ship is a local banker and arranges for a line of credit and a place to live. Relieved, the Vincents begin the work for which they have come to Italy.
All is proceeding apace until a solicitor arrives at their house and charges them with illegal trespass. Jane and Vincent produce letters from their banking friend, but they are all forgeries, and worse, he has used their forged letters to clean out their funds in England. Now, Jane and Vincent owe money to a number of people in town and are forbidden from travel. They manage to find some small work, but it is obvious to both of them that this path will not maintain them for long.
Instead, Vincent hatches a reckless plan to get their money back. The ensuing adventure is a glorious envisioning of all the best parts of heist narratives, but in a Regency setting with magic.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the 2008 recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Cosmos and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer and voice actor, lives in Portland, OR with her husband Rob and eight manual typewriters.
Mary Robinette Kowal has performed for LazyTown (CBS), the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Pictures and founded Other Hand Productions. Her design work has garnered two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve.
Photo: Mary Robinette Kowal at 2008 Nebula Awards. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.