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Flesh and Fire: Book One of The Vineart War Hardcover – October 13, 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Vineart War Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With a unique, pleasingly consistent magic system based on the production and consumption of wine, urban fantasist Gilman (the Retrievers series) turns a standard coming-of-age tale into something wholly new. Young Jerzy, a vineyard slave, possesses the rare and extraordinary ability of the Vinearts, magicians who create spellwines from the most potent grapes. When someone begins sabotaging the fields of the traditionally reclusive winemakers, it is up to Jerzy and his master to save their way of life. A slow build of tension as Jerzy progresses from slave to student to spy keeps the reader engaged without any need for frenetic fight scenes. The tale is dominated by vivid, absorbing characters, and Jerzy's powerful narrative voice makes his joys and sorrows dramatic, authentic and potent. This intoxicating high fantasy will satisfy oenophiles and bibliophiles alike. (Oct.)
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Review

"This launch of a new trilogy...achieves an extraordinary power from its elegant storytelling and unique magical philosophy.... Highly recommended." ---Library Journal Starred Review --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vineart War (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; First Edition edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439101418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439101414
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book definitely reads like the first in a trilogy. It rather conspicuously lacks an ending. How I wish that someone would write a decent stand-alone fantasy novel...

Anyway, it takes a very very long time to get to anything that resembles plot development around Jerzy, the main character. This is not to say that the book lacks plot development entirely, rather it is separated and disjointed over the course of the book and doesn't start to become more apparent until Malech, Jerzy's teacher, sends his charge away to study with someone else. Then there are some strange goings on, some eavesdropping, and other mayhem culminating in an exciting escape. Then the book ends.

Now there are reasons to read this book. The system of magic described is pretty interesting. Why? Because grape juice from certain grapes is magical... and some of them just make good wine :) There's a lot of description and explanation of how it works, who can use and make such things and why they do that in the first place. I thought it clever, original and well thought out.

The characters also seemed to be well thought out. While the exposition of those characters seemed to drag at times, I thought that the characters themselves weren't all that bad. Unfortunately, all the ones that intrigued me right off the bat died all too quickly... but that seems to be my tough luck. Ao was my favorite. He got to live. :)
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Plot Summary: I've always thought that wine is magical stuff, but this book truly takes that idea to the next level in this fantasy full of spellwines, mages, and slaves. Jerzy was kidnapped from his family long ago, and he's grown up as a slave to a Master Vineart, one of the revered magicians who craft spellwines. When Jerzy's inherent abilities are noticed by Malech, he's taken into the Master's house to train as a student. The Vinearts live like monks, shut up and isolated from the outside world, but an evil magic is slowly unravelling the peace and prosperity of their civilization, and Malech sends Jerzy on a mission.

I predict this novel will be sold in gift shops throughout Napa Valley, and anyone who loves a good fantasy should be well satisfied. I was in the mood for something unique when I decided to try this one, because hey, it's not everyday I see a fantasy that involves magic wine. What impressed me the most was the incredibly detailed world building that dominates the entire story. It's a strength and also a weakness, because so much of this book was about setting the stage, and I think some readers will be impatient for the action to commence.

I wish more stories would take time to craft the master and apprentice relationship, because it's never boring, and unusually complex. There's devotion, servitude, obedience, rebellion, and hopefully, deeply ingrained respect. Jerzy's time as a slave came very close to breaking his spirit, and his growth mirrors the vines that he tends. Alas, there was no romance, and it doesn't look promising, but this fantasy is deep enough to hold my interest even without it.

It looks like more books will be coming, one about every October, and I think it's fitting that this follows the actual grape harvest period. I'll keep my eyes open for book two this time next year.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Laura Anne Gilman has created a new concept in magic.

In Flesh and Fire: Book One of The Vineart War, the source of magical power is grapes (very special grapes of diverse genetics) made into wine and then enspelled to specialize the raw magical power into useful forms.

Once a Vine-art has enspelled a mature wine, it lasts about a year and allows those with no magical power to cast that one, prepared, spell the wine contains.

A Vineart, however, can use even specialized wine to do -- well, we don't know the limits of what a Vineart might do yet.

We live the lessons a young vineart in training goes through, the initiation by immersion in spelled wine, the visceral contact the young magician makes with the source of magic as he gains control over the power. We learn what it feels like to be a vineart.

We also learn the cosmogany of this universe. Originally, magic was used by Prince-Mages, magicians who held political power, and their main occupation was war. A god sundered the bond between politics and magic, creating princes and vinearts, who were Commanded not to meddle in each others' affairs.

Now, however, some magic that vinearts don't recognize is stirring, destroying villages, prompting Princes to change their personal character and act irrationally.

With only occasional glimpses of the affairs of others, we follow Jerzy, the young magician's apprentice through his lessons and into his first field assignment in a royal court. Jerzy earnestly follows instructions and orders, and because of that is catapulted into the role of Hero on a journey we can see will be many novels in the telling.

Frankly, I'm looking forward to more stories of the Vineart Wars, hoping we will follow Jerzy through his greatest epiphanies.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The premise of this fantasy world is that all magic is found in special grapes, which when made into "spell wines", allows people to tap into the actual magical properties. Each type of grape can only thrive in one region, thereby dividing the power among several people instead of it being concentrated in the hands of the one person or group. Of course, in true high fantasy style, there is the unknown antagonist who wishes to "rule the world" and is attempting to consolidate the power in his/her hands.

This novel was an excellent "Book One" of a series. The characters are intriguing and realistic, the settings are well defined, and the overall plot moves along nicely. I eagerly await the next book in the series.
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