Todd’s Review of The Shattered Vine (Vineart War #3) by Laura Anne Gilman

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
ISBN: 9781439101483

Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy!

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Todd’s Review of Weight of Stone (Vineart War #2) by Laura Anne Gilman

Once again we are thrust into the Lands Vin in the second installment of Larua Anne Gilman’s Vineart War series, Weight of Stone (see my review of the first novel, Flesh and Firehere).  The likeable Jerzy, protagonist and Vineart apprentice of the House of Malech, is back again to fight the distant forces of evil that threaten the very livelihood that keep the Lands Vin together: the magic of the Vinearts and their spellwines.  Excited to continue this fantastic story of sci-fi/fantasy, I dove in to Weight of Stone with high expectations.

We first encounter Jerzy as a fugitive from justice, as he is accused of being apostate (breaking the command of Sin Washer by using Vineart magic improperly).  The penalty of such an offense is death, but he had been daringly rescued by his friends Ao and Mahault before he could be tried and executed.  Now on the open sea and on the run from the Washers, who hope to capture him and bring him up against charges of being apostate, Jerzy is thrown into completely unfamiliar surroundings with only Ao and Mahault to turn to.  Fortunately for them, they are discovered (inadvertently with the help of Jerzy’s quiet magic) by Kainam, former heir to Atakus, the great trading port of the Lands Vin.  He too has felt the evil that seems to be lurking and growing stronger by the moment, and chose to leave and discover its origin rather than hide as those on his island home have done.  Now that their group is four strong, Jerzy finds new courage and eventually comes back to the Berengia, and to Master Malech.  Unfortunately, not all is well, and we are introduced to the source of “the Taint” in this novel.  A cast-off people with a leader known as Ximen and a Vine-Mage (yes, they are not all destroyed!) hash out a living in a far away land known as the Abandoned Land.  While most of the inhabitants of this community are ignorant of the plans, both Ximen and the Vine-Mage have plans that threaten the very safety of the entire Lands Vin.  Can Jerzy and Master Malech stop them?  Will his new-found friends be able to assist him in his ultimate goal?

Gilman really knows how to pull me in to a novel.  After slowly building suspense throughout the first half of the work (with a couple of action sequences thrown in for good measure), she really lets it go on the second half.  Once Jerzy was back at the Berengia and working with Master Malech again, the conflict with the Taint really started to heat up.  She does such a great job fleshing out these characters, especially Jerzy, so that you can’t help but become really attached to them.  Her character development is phenomenal, and I’ve always thought that this is a key part of storytelling.  Good development means more interest in the characters, which leads to more interest in the plot line, which makes the entire book more enjoyable.  As such, I couldn’t help but be shocked and dismayed at the loss of a major character later on in the novel (of course I won’t tell you who it is, you’ll just have to find out for yourself!).  This added an emotional depth to the work that I didn’t see coming at all.  It made Jerzy’s purpose that more important, and his goal that much more urgent.  After this book we truly know what we’re up against, and it will be an all out battle in the third book to bring the evil forces of the Vine-Mage and Ximen to a close.  I truly cannot wait to dive into the third installment, The Shattered Vine, and I can only hope that Gilman makes it just as exciting and captivating as this work has been.

5 out of 5 Stars

Weight of Stone by Laura Anne Gilman
Pocket Books (2011)
Paperback 480 pages
ISBN: 9781451611670

Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me my review copy!

Todd’s Review of Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1) by Laura Anne Gilman

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
ISBN: 9781439191545

Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy!

12 Days of Giveaways – Day 9: For the Science Fiction/Fantasy Lover

Hello again and welcome to day 9 of the 12 Days of Giveaways! For those of you still playing along, we’re in the home stretch, with only 3 days left to go. Today’s giveaway is for the science fiction / fantasy lover, with two groups of two books each up for grabs. Personally I’ve always found myself to side more with the science fiction half of things, but as I’ve read more I’ve found some great fantasy offerings, such as the Vineart series by Laura Anne Gilman. It’s an easy transition from science fiction to fantasy, just substitute some of the science for mysterious and magical themes and you’re all set. If you’ve yet to get involved with the fantasy genre winning one of the packages below is a great way to get yourself started. Good luck!

Science Fiction / Fantasy Package 1:

Heart of StoneHeart of Stone by Debra Mullins – Darius Montana is a Seer. With his gift of empathy, he can see into the hearts of others, both human and Atlantean. When his family comes into possession of one of the legendary power stones of Atlantis, Darius is sent to find the Stone Singer.

Faith Karaluros is the last Stone Singer. Manipulated all her life for her rare ability, she is widowed after her husband tried to steal her power for the Mendukati, an extremist group that hunts Seers. Faith wants nothing more than to stay out of this war when Darius comes to find her—just in time to rescue her from being kidnapped.

Faith goes with Darius, determined to do the job and be on her way with the money that can set her up where no one can find her again. She didn’t count on the Mendukati sending a hit man after her. Darius swears he can protect her, but when she discovers he is one of the rare Atlanteans whose powers work on their own kind, can she trust him to keep his word, or is she being used again?

(Giveaway copy is a paperback)

WarriorWarrior of Fate by Debra Mullins – Warrior Adrian Gray has dedicated his life in service to his people, and has never doubted his calling… until now. Three mystical Atlantean power stones were assumed lost for centuries, but one by one the Seers of Atlantis have tracked them down in a tireless race against the extremist Mendukati. Adrian’s mission? To ensure that the stones are acquired and protected by the right people—his people.

Adrian has always been uncompromising in his dedication to the cause. But the True Seer Tessa Montana proves a sensual distraction in his quest, and he soon finds his discipline wavering. Torn between his sacred duty to the Warriors and his desire for Tessa, will Adrian and his secrets cost them the war?

(Giveaway copy is a paperback)

Science Fiction / Fantasy Package 2:

BasiliskVoyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan – Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.

(Giveaway copy is a hardcover)

ShardsShards of Heaven by Michael Livingston – The beginning of an epic historical fantasy that rocks the foundations of the ancient world

Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar’s ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar’s legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.

Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods—or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.

Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

The Shards of Heaven reveals the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commences a war greater than any mere mortal battle.

(Giveaway copy is a hardcover)

Giveaway Instructions – (Special thanks to TOR for our giveaway copies!)

Two lucky winners will have the opportunity to win ONE of the two packages listed above! For your chance to win simply leave a comment below about a science fiction / fantasy book you love and would recommend to others.  Comments will be accepted through midnight on Thursday, December 31, 2015.  The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday, January 1, 2016.  Open to US residents only. Good luck!

The Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2012

heart-bookHi everyone!  I thought that since you all have heard so much about my own personal goals and favorite reads of 2012, it was about time that you heard from the rest of the staff.  I’ve asked them to send me their top reads of 2012, and I’ve posted them below.  I think it’s interesting to see what different readers choose as their favorites, and it’s always a great springboard for opening a discussion too!  So, without further adieu, here’s the Reflections of a Book Addict staff favorites of 2012!

Todd:

  1. Timeline by Michael Crichton
  2. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  3. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  4. A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis
  5. H10N1 by M.R. Cornelius
  6. Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1) by Laura Anne Gilman
  7. The Sounding by Carrie Salo

Adam:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
  3. Pantheons by E.J. Dabel
  4. Albino by E.J. Dabel
  5. Deal With the Devil by J. Gunnar Grey

Christine:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Issues 1-6 of Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt
  3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  4. The Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
  5. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  6. Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Jess:

  1. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
  2. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  3. Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton

What do you think?  Leave us a comment below!

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The April Round-Up!

I know I say this every month, but where the hell has this year gone?  Continuing on with my super human reading speed, I added another 23 books to my year to date total, bringing me up to 72 books for the year.  DAMN! I’m really going to have to up my 110 total I think (I’ll evaluate this next month).  Anyway – on to what I read this month!  Read some YA lit, historical fiction, graphic novels, as well as a good chunk of romance novels (there was an “earl” themed eBook sale for the Nook. I couldn’t help myself)!

The fam at Pop’s retirement party!

ANYWAY.  April started off with a bang.  Pops (aka my dad) retired from the railroad after 45 years!  He drove freight trains just like my Pop-Pop (grandpa) did for 50 years!  My mom threw him a retirement bash that was a really good time.  Got to meet some people that my dad worked with over the years and also some of his friends that I hadn’t met previously.  Also was a good time just hanging with the family and Grams!

We also took a trip to NJ for Easter with the in-laws! I always love going to my in-law’s house because Todd’s mom and I get to talk books.  Her book club is always reading such interesting choices – after a trip to see her my to-read list always goes up!

Sebastian joining the read-a-thon

April 21 was the day that Reflections of  a Book Addict was FINALLY able to take part in a 24 hour read-a-thon!  Staff bloggers Adam, Todd, Jess, and I piled into mine and Todd’s living room and camped out for 18 out of the 24 hours.  I had an absolute blast and can’t wait to participate in another one. (I heard October?!?!)  Anyway we got to do a lot of bookish type contests and activities and were able to spend time together as a staff.  It was fabulous.  My kitten Sebastian even tried to join us!

All and all April was a good month.  I think my favorite read this month was my graphic novel version of The Canterbury Tales.   I’m not really sure where my love for The Canterbury Tales started, but I love everything that has to do with it!

May is going to be a fantabulous month. (No surprise there!)  My friend, Christine, is OFFICIALLY joining the blog! Her first posts are going up May 15th/16th as part of the blog tour for Written in the Ashes.  We’re SUPER pumped to welcome her to the staff. (You can check out her bio on the staff page).  Adam has some historical fiction and mystery reviews coming up, Todd’s review of the third and final Vineart War book The Shattered Vine is being posted soon, Charlie’s writing some film reviews, and Jess is joining us again with her review of The Big Fun Sexy Sex Book!  Lots of eclectic choices coming this month from me as well, including When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Deadlocked, The Orchid House, and more, so stay tuned!

As always…

Happy Reading!

The January Round-Up

Staff Bloggers: Adam, Todd, Kim, and Charlie (L-R)

January has been an EXPLOSIVE month!  I’ve more than doubled the amount of books I read in January of 2010 (only 7), finishing up at a total of 15 for the month.  I’m pretty proud of my 15 considering I’ve had a fairly hectic month.  The bowling league that Todd and I are a part of started back up, taking over my Thursday evenings each week.  Charlie and I have been heading to the movies every Tuesday to take advantage of $5 movie night.  With Oscar season just around the corner we’re trying to catch up on everything we haven’t seen!  Todd and I also made a few trips to NYC this month, hitting up our favorite bookstore, The Strand, and getting to see Mary Poppins on Broadway.  Todd and I were also able to meet up with fellow Reflections of a Book Addict bloggers Adam and Charlie for a get together in Manhattan.  There were lots of other things going on this month, but those were the highlights!

The Apothecary's DaughterOn to the reading! I tried to keep it eclectic this month and read a variety of genres: paranormal, romance, historical fiction, mystery, and graphic novels.  I still owe you guys some reviews, so keep an eye on the blog.  The one I’m most looking forward to sharing with you is The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen.  My top read for the month was The Night Sky by Maria Sutton (I posted my review yesterday).

Great reads coming up on the horizon! Todd is currently reading the first book in The Vineart War trilogy, Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman, as well as Timeline by Michael Crichton.  Flesh and Fire is a fantasy novel, while Timeline is science fiction.  (Additionally, if you’re a fan of sci-fi/fantasy/magical novels, then may I suggest you sign up for Roof Beam Reader’s Magical March Challenge?)  Charlie’s got some great film reviews coming up, including one for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Carnal, a new graphic novel from Sea Lion Books, is on Adam’s plate for February, as well as a review of the film The Artist.  And me? Well, I’ve got a lot coming up for you! The Kitchen Daughter, Montfort, The Psychology of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo are just a few of the titles coming soon.

I hope that your own individual challenges are going well and that you’re finding some great titles!  Keep on reading my friends, and leave your recommendations below!

Happy Reading!!