I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy, and there are certain themes that are typically prevalent in the storyline of a good fantasy . I thought I had seen all of them, but that was before I read Flesh and Fire, the first novel in the Vineart War series by Laura Anne Gilman. This particular novel centers around wine. Not just any wine, but magical wine!
Once, in the Vin Lands there were men of great influence known as prince-mages. They were given almost unlimited power in the way of spellwines, which they used to further their own interests and battle each other for land and wealth. Seeking to restore the balance of power in mortals, a demigod known as Sin Washer came down to earth to break the bonds between prince-mages and the wines, replacing them with secondary wines that were less potent, but still powerful nonetheless. Many years later, these wines are closely guarded and kept by the Vinearts, whose job it is to use the magic within the wines and within themselves to use the wines for good. Master Vineart Malech has been tending grapes and crafting spellwines for years, honing his craft and bettering the lives of those within his lands. However, something mysterious and evil is brewing in the Vin Lands. Although the ways of the Vinearts typically keep them from interfering with the lives of those around them and keeping to their own vineyards, Master Malech senses that something is amiss and works silently to combat it. A young slave in his vineyard named Jerzy seems to have the inherent qualities of a Vineart, but Master Malech will need more than an ordinary Vineart to combat this rising threat. Not only this, but Jerzy must learn the ways of the craft in less time than ever before. Will Jerzy be able to learn this complex craft and help his master in time? Will Malech discover the source of the disturbance that has shaken the confidence of his fellow Vinearts and instilled fear in the land?
I think the greatest part about this book is that it’s part of a trilogy! Gilman has created an awesome world of mystery and tradition that pulled me in from the beginning. I can’t wait to read the next two books! But anyway, on to the amazing parts of this novel. The fact that she took the time to create such a detailed plot that took Jerzy from lowly slave (who even had lost his identity so much so that he had trouble remembering his name!) to a Vineart wise beyond his years is testament to her passion for writing. It’s a coming of age story, a story of magical history, and a story of an epic battle in the making. Master Malech crafts Jerzy as a woodworker takes a rough block of wood and turns it into a masterpiece. The potential that he sees in Jerzy pays off as he uses him as an extension of himself in the far lands away from his own in order to gather information and gain allies in the coming battle. As the reader I became invested in Jerzy’s story, and I rooted for him the entire time. He is an extremely likeable character, and made the story that much more enjoyable. If the other two books that Gilman has written are anything like Flesh and Fire, I’m sure to be in for a treat!
5 out of 5 stars
Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman
Pocket Books (2010)
Paperback 496 pages
Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy!