After a long and intriguing journey, Laura Anne Gilman finally brings the Vineart saga to a close in her third novel in the series, The Shattered Vine. After the climactic end to the second book in the series, Weight of Stone, which involved Jerzy narrowly saving the lives of his friends from a magical sea serpent, I could not wait to get started on what I hoped was just as exciting of a finish to this Vineart war. Just as I predicted, Gilman did not disappoint, and this trilogy will go down as one of my favorite fantasy series that I’ve read in a long time.
We begin the novel proper by rejoining Jerzy, Mahult, Ao, and Kanïm as they arrive home to the Berengia after fighting a terrible battle against the far-reaching magic of an evil vine mage of a far away land that is not included in the Lands Vin. This man, along with Ximen, the leader of the people in this barren land, aim to enact revenge against those in the Lands Vin for what they feel was a banishment of their people by those in power seven generations ago. The power of the vine-mage is immense, as he uses mass sacrifices in order to gain the power necessary to decant spells that cross huge distances and wreak havoc on all those in the Lands Vin. The Lands are in disarray, as the Washers and Collegium decide to persuade Vinearts to join forces with land lords, although it is in direct opposition to Sin Washer’s command. The outlook looks bleak, but there is one person who can stand in the path of this menace. Jerzy. His powers have been steadily increasing since his inception as a Vineart with the death of Master Malech. Although his quiet magic has been increasing to such a point that he is not sure as to whether it will consume him or not, he feels the elements of all the grapes he has encountered on his long journey, mixing and building on one another to make a magic that knows no boundaries. Will Jerzy be able to find the strength (and magic) within him to take on Ximen and the vine mage? Will his friends be able to help him or will they be struck down in the battle?
I must admit, I think I like Gilman’s writing style even more than the actual plot in this work. Yes, it is the climactic end to a great series, but the way in which Gilman frames Jerzy’s dramatic battle to get where he is now is just an amazing piece of work. She is quite the epic writer, and the amazing way in which she pulls all of the far-flung plot pieces together for one last hurrah is quite amazing. The way in which she develops her characters is fantastic, with a lot more focus on the plot’s effects on the characters instead of simply moving the plot along. This character-centric focus makes all of her books in this series different from your typical sci-fi fare, and is a really refreshing and enjoyable approach. I enjoyed seeing the fruits of Jerzy’s labors in becoming a powerful Vineart, and I liked how Ao, Mahult, and Kanïm all complemented him in different ways, giving him the strength to fight Ximen and the vine mage. The only complaint I had with the novel was its abrupt ending, but this may be a set up for future works or additional insights into the world of the Lands Vin in the future (I’ve found out that Gilman launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to write a novella that takes place a few hundred years before this series and references Bradhai, the famous Vineart that banished the seas of serpents! Check it out here.) Again, a wonderful work by Gilman that definitely made me happy that I was able to travel with Jerzy and company through this amazing story.
4 out of 5 stars
The Shattered Vine by Laura Anne Gilman
Gallery Books (2011)
Hardcover 352 pages
Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy!