BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review of "The Shattered Vine" by Laura Anne Gilman

Publisher: Gallery

Release Date: October 18, 2011

Series: #3 The Vineart Trilogy

Buying Links:   Amazon     The Book Depository

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

An island nation has vanished. Men of honor and magic have died unnatural deaths. Slaves flee in terror. . . . Are the silent gods beginning to speak? Or is another force at work in the Lands Vin? 

Laura Anne Gilman’s critically acclaimed, Nebula Award–nominated Flesh and Fire introduced a brilliantly imagined world where the grapevine—cultivated by the Vinearts who know the secrets of wine magic—holds together disparate lands. Now, confusion, violence, and terror are sweeping over the Lands Vin. And four people are at the center of a storm.

Jerzy, Vineart apprentice and former slave, was sent by his master to investigate strange happenings—and found himself the target of betrayal. Now he must set out on his own journey, to find the source of the foul taint that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear. By Jerzy’s side are Ao, who lives for commerce and the art of the deal; Mahault, stoic and wise, risking death in flight from her homeland; and Ka├»nam, once Named-Heir of an island principality, whose father has fallen into a magic-tangled madness that endangers them all.  

These four companions will travel far from the earth and the soul of the vine, sailing along coastlines aflame with fear, confronting sea creatures summoned by darkness, and following winds imbued with malice. Their journey will take them to the very limits of the Sin Washer’s reach . . . and into a battle for the soul of the Lands Vin. For two millennia the Sin Washer’s Commandment has kept these lands in order: Those of magic shall hold no power over men and those princes of power shall hold no magic. Now, that law has given way. And a hidden force seeks the havoc of revenge.

An adventure through an unforgettable realm conjured by breathtaking imagination, Laura Anne Gilman’s saga of the Vineart War is a "dramatic, authentic, and potent" (Publishers Weekly) literary delight.


It happened so fast, nobody, not even the solitaire, could react in time.

From a nearly frozen tableau, the hound released Mahault's hands and lurched forward, knocking her backward onto the flagstone floor, her head making a hard thunk as it hit. Her hands, released, came up, but even as Kainam was reaching for his blade to kill the beast, Jerzy had his hand on the hilt, stopping him. The Vineart didn't remember moving, had not taken his eyes off Mahault long enough to see the princeling move, and yet his gesture had been unerring.

My Thoughts:

I admit, I like Laura Anne Gilman's writing. I'm a big fan. She writes clearly, intelligently, with depth and a keen eye. Her characters, whether Talent (magic) workers in contemporary New York City, or magic wielding vineyard masters, feel real and are always complex. I always learn something when I read a Gilman story and they usually make me think but they are enjoyable too. 

"The Shattered Vine" is no exception. The final book in her Vineart War trilogy takes the story threads and plot lines from the first two books and gradually brings them to a thought provoking, tightly written conclusion. In the process, she looks at tradition, history, religion, magic, and politics. Few of her characters are are all good or all bad but fall everywhere in between, which helps to make them feel real. This was particularly true of the Washers, the religious group responsible for ensuring separation of magic and politics. She could have taken the lazy way and made them all evil, stupid, or incompetent and in the first book it seems she might, but she veers and instead gives them depth.

The main characters, Jerzy, Mahault, Kainam, and Ao grow and change over the course of the series and in this book we get to see who they become and how that influences the outcome of the war for the Lands Vin. We spend time in each of their heads though Ao is the one who, despite dealing with what occurred in book two, has the least page time. I missed him.The ending wasn't quite what I expected but I was mostly satisfied. Mostly because I want to know what happens next - does Kainam's family regain their kingdom? What does Mahault do, stay at House Malech or move on? How about Ao, does he return to trading? What about the Vin Lands, what happens now? I wish that we could get a wrap up story but looking at Gilman's to do list on her blog, I don't think that will happen.

The beginning was occasionally slow but the book picked up speed and built to a the climactic battle. If you like a traditionally inspired fantasy story minus faeries, elves, etc., but with an original, complex magic system; if you like a smart, well written story with depth and complexity, with characters who are both realistic and likable; if you appreciate detailed world building, then you will like this story.

I received the hardcover from the publisher for review.

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