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Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman
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Flesh and Fire

by Laura Anne Gilman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Vineart War (1)

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2521545,464 (3.6)13
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» See also 13 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This is quite possibly the most unique book I've ever read. It's written in an oddly detailed way, taking care of every nuance of flavor along with tight plot lines. I willingly followed each person, learning to keep my distance lest I grow attached to someone who would die, but fell in love with each person anyway. Wonderful detail and enthralling story. ( )
  lorikitty | Aug 4, 2017 |
(Re-posted from http://theturnedbrain.blogspot.com.au)

I firmly believe that nothing, nothing is more important in a book than the protagonist. A well written hero can carry the weakest of plots, elevate the plainest of supporting cast and make an otherwise average book into something special. Laura Anne Gilman’s ‘Flesh and Fire’ proves all to well that the reverse is definitely not true.

The concept of Flesh and Fire is really cool, and handled originally. A few select men, called Vinearts, can coax magic from grapes and craft potent spell wines. Once they used their exclusive magic to gain power, but now there are strict laws that stop Vinearts from being able to hold positions of power or influence.

Jerzy, a young slave, is found to have the abilities of vineart, and so is risen from his position to become an apprentice to the Vineart Master Malach.

There’s a lot to potentially like about this book. I’m not a fan of non-fiction, but having said that I really like it when a book teaches me things. When an author has clearly researched the topic of the book extensively and the knowledge just shines through. So it is with Flesh and Fire and wine making. I’m not saying that upon finishing the book you could go out and craft your own vintage, but I found the various minutiae of wine making that the book explores to be really interesting.

If only the protagonist, Jerzy, had been at least half as interesting. But sadly, he is not. There’s nothing to him. I mean, this kid has been a slave all of his life, until one day he gets yanked from the fields and becomes an apprentice to the man who owns him. A situation fraught with potential angst and conflict one would think. Jerzy never feels any kind of resentment towards Master Malach. His time as a slave was brutal and hard, and yet he never attempts to help his fellow slaves or even really thinks about them as being more as slaves. The explanation given for this is that the harshness of slavery is needed to make the abilities of a Vineart develop. Which I get, and should have made for some really fascinating dynamics between the once slave Vineart masters and the one slave apprentices. But it barely gets touched upon, and a large source of potential tension just goes to waste.

(And why are all the Vinearts men? The idea of a female Vineart is never broached, not even an offhand comment to explain why there are none. The silence on the matter bugged me more than a half ass excuse explaining it would have.)

I guess in a lot of ways Jerzy never stops being a placid slave. He does what he’s told and and he rarely moves the plot himself. The other characters act and react, think and plot and make decisions, Jerzy just lets the currents they create move him about. There’s only one scene I can think of where Jerzy uses his initiative and impacts the plot. That’s pretty unacceptable for a main character, in my opinion.

The secondary characters are much better done than Jerzy. The young trader Ao was a breath of fresh air, and I found his trader outlook to be really interesting. I also liked Mauhalt, a nobleman’s daughter who looks like she’s going to get a kick ass character arc normally reserved more male characters. (Which just bring me back to the question of female Vinearts, and the lack thereof).

Jerzy’s passivity might have been easier to take if not for the fact that this book feels like it’s all setup. Things don’t really get rolling until literally the last fifty pages or so, whereupon the book ends on a cliffhanger. I suspect the second book will be much better than the first. If nothing else the plot appears to have actually started, and in the final pages of the book I developed some slight hope that Jerzy was about to actually take charge.

Normally I wouldn’t even give the next book a try based on the serious flaws in this one, but Laura Anne Gilman is clearly a very capable writer and the series does have potential. If she turns Jerzy’s character around then his actions in the first boom will become the first part of an impressive character arc, and the ridiculously slow build of the plot would be forgivable. It still kinda sucks that you have to slog through a vaguely boring first volume to get to the good stuff. ( )
  MeganDawn | Jan 18, 2016 |
This is a reasonably fun, light, enjoyable read about a world where magic comes from wine and grapes and the Vinearts are wealthy and powerful, but forbidden from involvement in politics. A young slave, Jerzy, is taken from the fields to become an apprentice Vineart, how very fantasy, except, we learn, that this is how all Vinearts are created, necessitating a rather brutal system of slavery to both work the vineyards and supply the Vinearts, a perfectly designed and deeply nasty cycle accepted unquestioningly by our hero, thus far, at any rate. With Jerzy we learn how the magic works, and then the plot slowly develops involving a form of magic that should not work by those rules. It's all a bit careful and painstaking, but towards the end Jerzy is sent forth from his sheltered existence into the wider world. As of the end of this first volume we're not much the wiser, but our hero has acquired some companions and is on the run while more dark deeds are afoot.

It's not in the first rank of fantasy writing, but it is clever enough, diverting, and I want to see both what happens next and whether the slavery cycle will be properly examined, let alone broken, though it's hard to see a hero as timid and unsure of himself as Jerzy doing much other than agonising about it for a while and moving on. Hopefully he will grow and change and cultivate some backbone. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Amazon preorder
  romsfuulynn | Apr 28, 2013 |
Liked it. Flesh and fire has a very original magic system, activated through wine. The book is not extremely exciting, but it's nice to read and I do want to know how the story will evolve. I would have preferred a bit more character building, and it would be nice if Jerzy (the main character) gets some confidence in the next book, but the end of the book seems promising for that, so I'm definitely going to buy it! ( )
  zjakkelien | Jan 4, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laura Anne Gilmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
McGrath, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book absolutely has to be dedicated to my agent, Jennifer Jackson, whose casual suggestion "write me a food- or wine-based fantasy" was meant in jest but triggered the idea that became these books.
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When I preach, I remind myself that the Collegium was created for one purpose: that the world not forget Sin Washer, and how -- and why -- He came to us.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Once, all power in the Vin Lands was held by the prince-mages, who alone could craft spellwines, and selfishly used them to increase their own wealth and influence. But their abuse of power caused a demigod to break the Vine, shattering the power of the mages. Now, fourteen centuries later, it is the humble Vinearts who hold the secret of crafting spells from wines, the source of magic, and they are prohibited from holding power. In "Flesh and fire", the first in a spellbinding new trilogy, Laura Anne Gilman conjures a story as powerful as magic itself, as intoxicating as the finest of wines, and as timeless as the greatest legends ever told.… (more)

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