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From acclaimed bestselling author Laura Anne Gilman comes a unique and enthralling new story of fantasy and adventure, wine and magic, danger and hope.... 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 From acclaimed bestselling author Laura Anne Gilman comes a unique and enthralling new story of fantasy and adventure, wine and magic, danger and hope.... 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. But now rumors come of a new darkness rising in the vineyards. Strange, terrifying creatures, sudden plagues, and mysterious disappearances threaten the land. Only one Vineart senses the danger, and he has only one weapon to use against it: a young slave. His name is Jerzy, and his origins are unknown, even to him. Yet his uncanny sense of the Vinearts' craft offers a hint of greater magics within — magics that his Master, the Vineart Malech, must cultivate and grow. But time is running out. If Malech cannot teach his new apprentice the secrets of the spellwines, and if Jerzy cannot master his own untapped powers, the Vin Lands shall surely be destroyed. In Flesh and Fire, 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.


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From acclaimed bestselling author Laura Anne Gilman comes a unique and enthralling new story of fantasy and adventure, wine and magic, danger and hope.... 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 From acclaimed bestselling author Laura Anne Gilman comes a unique and enthralling new story of fantasy and adventure, wine and magic, danger and hope.... 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. But now rumors come of a new darkness rising in the vineyards. Strange, terrifying creatures, sudden plagues, and mysterious disappearances threaten the land. Only one Vineart senses the danger, and he has only one weapon to use against it: a young slave. His name is Jerzy, and his origins are unknown, even to him. Yet his uncanny sense of the Vinearts' craft offers a hint of greater magics within — magics that his Master, the Vineart Malech, must cultivate and grow. But time is running out. If Malech cannot teach his new apprentice the secrets of the spellwines, and if Jerzy cannot master his own untapped powers, the Vin Lands shall surely be destroyed. In Flesh and Fire, 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.

30 review for Flesh and Fire

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    This was interesting but not super compelling. I will probably finish the series? Another one from the TBR Jar. And this one really kicked me in the butt, because I've actually owned an ARC of this book since six months before it was originally published in September 2009. And I've had it in my small little pile of books that basically says to me every time I look at it, "Okay, really you need to read this." And so I never look at that pile. Anyway, this is a book about a world where all magic co This was interesting but not super compelling. I will probably finish the series? Another one from the TBR Jar. And this one really kicked me in the butt, because I've actually owned an ARC of this book since six months before it was originally published in September 2009. And I've had it in my small little pile of books that basically says to me every time I look at it, "Okay, really you need to read this." And so I never look at that pile. Anyway, this is a book about a world where all magic comes from grapes that have been turned into spellwine. The author wrote it after her editor challenged her to write a magic system based on either food or wine. So she did. And it turned out pretty well! The book opens with a worldbuilding prologue, telling all about how vineyards and spellwine used to be controlled by princes, and things were basically terrible, until the son of two gods came to earth and shattered that power, weakening and making more complicated the power of the grapes, so that no person would be able to have both political power and still control the magic of the grapes. There's also a cruel but efficient clause in the magic that makes it so that only people who come from the lowliest of backgrounds develop the magic necessary to become a vineart. This actually encourages the practice of slavery, which is disgusting, so that vinearts will be able to basically create their own apprentices by buying a bunch of slaves and keeping an eye on them. Oh, and also they have to emotionally neglect them (!). Anyway, that's all just background and something I focused on while reading, and it's not really parsed out in the text yet, so that's one reason I'm interested in reading the sequels, because I want to see if it's addressed (doesn't seem like the dude who took away power from people who were misusing it would be super happy the system he created was being used to oppress people). Our main character is Jerzy, a slave. His master notices his talents and takes him away from working in the vineyard to live in the main house and train him up as an apprentice. It's then that we learn the master isn't actually as cruel as he appears, and does care for his slaves, but as discussed above, treats them with disinterest so that their lowliness might encourage magic to pop up. And so it did in Jerzy. The first third of the book is almost entirely devoted to his training, and to him learning to be a person instead of a slave. It was a bit heartbreaking in places, even though I was at an emotional remove for most of the book. That emotional remove was kind of a weird experience, and the main reason I'm only giving this three stars (3.5, really). But then the main conflict crops ups. Someone is misusing magic and attacking other vinearts, and the whole system could be in danger. I appreciated this book more on an intellectual level than a visceral one, but explaining the magic system itself took up time, and the book was pretty short, so my feelings for the characters and the world might very well deepen if I read future books. Looks like the series hasn't caught on at all in the ten years I've had this ARC, though. This book only has about 1,000 or so ratings on Goodreads, and it's sequels have much less. My library doesn't even have book three. Maybe I'll track it down later this year. [3.5 stars]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I'm embarrassed by how long I had this book, buried in a to-read stack, but the important thing is that I finally read it and I greatly enjoyed it once it got going. Gilman created a unique fantasy world based on wine magic. Yes, wine magic. Jerzy is a teenage boy, a slave toiling in a vineyard, but his master notices the magical inclination that Jerzy tries to hide. All Vinearts arise from slavery. Jerzy soon finds himself immersed in a totally different life as he is tutored in the ways of win I'm embarrassed by how long I had this book, buried in a to-read stack, but the important thing is that I finally read it and I greatly enjoyed it once it got going. Gilman created a unique fantasy world based on wine magic. Yes, wine magic. Jerzy is a teenage boy, a slave toiling in a vineyard, but his master notices the magical inclination that Jerzy tries to hide. All Vinearts arise from slavery. Jerzy soon finds himself immersed in a totally different life as he is tutored in the ways of wine, as well as fighting and culture. He's pushed hard in his training as clues emerge about a threat against not only the Vinearts, but people across the disparate realms. I can see how the pace of this book might turn off some readers; it's all about worldbuilding. Me, I'm a worldbuilding geek. I love the details that Gilman went into to describe the ways of Vinearts, and the whole structure of the overall world. It is fascinating!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Laura Anne Gilman's fantasy novel "Flesh and Fire" may not reinvent the fantasy wheel, but at least it has an interesting magical system in place. The magical system of this world is built around grape and wines, with various vineyards producing grapes and wines that have various magical powers and uses. It's a fascinating concept and when the story delves into the system that Gilman is setting up and how people are chosen and trained in the ways of the magical system, the book really works. Where Laura Anne Gilman's fantasy novel "Flesh and Fire" may not reinvent the fantasy wheel, but at least it has an interesting magical system in place. The magical system of this world is built around grape and wines, with various vineyards producing grapes and wines that have various magical powers and uses. It's a fascinating concept and when the story delves into the system that Gilman is setting up and how people are chosen and trained in the ways of the magical system, the book really works. Where the story falls down a bit is in the final third of the novel when it becomes apparent there's some kind of huge new evil pervading the land and becoming a threat. At this point the novel falls into the standard fantasy tropes and loses some of the momentum it gained and earned in the first two-thirds of the story. Still, the magical system of this universe and the character work on our hero, Jerzy, is enough that I'll be looking for the next installment in this proposed trilogy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Laura Gilman's latest fantasy novel in a huge departure from her urban fantasy novels. She pulls it off with panache because she brings to the table a completely unique system of magic involving vinters and wine. The spellwines themselves involve a lot of the same usual magic of weather, healing etc, but I thoroughly enjoyed this new magical system. Although the world is unique and system of magic are unique, the fantasy itself, in which a young apprentice, a quick learner, named Jerzy and his M Laura Gilman's latest fantasy novel in a huge departure from her urban fantasy novels. She pulls it off with panache because she brings to the table a completely unique system of magic involving vinters and wine. The spellwines themselves involve a lot of the same usual magic of weather, healing etc, but I thoroughly enjoyed this new magical system. Although the world is unique and system of magic are unique, the fantasy itself, in which a young apprentice, a quick learner, named Jerzy and his Master are trying to come to grips with some unknown peril, magical attacks from an unknown source, is more pedestrian. However, Gilman skillfully shows how Jerzy is trained in magic, interweaves the royalty, Vinearts and Sin Washers into a good story, and shows how the unknown enemy is manipulating the residents to achieve its own ends. Unfortunately, the novel ends somewhat abruptly, with Jerzy's early training and the early attacks taking up more than 3/4's of the story, I would have liked a little more action in the latter part of the story and not such an abrupt ending to Jerzy's story. Still its a very interesting world, and I look forward to the next installment of this unique fantasy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Clemy-chan

    This was equal parts interesting and boring. I loved the innovative magic system, but got sick of the endless descriptions of the taste of wine, I loved our MC 's brightness and cursed his frightened side, loved how his Master took care of him but hated how he kept him purposely in the dark, and so on and so forth. Though I usually prefer the studying/learning stage in such books, I have to say that by the middle of it I was ready for the political/mystery plot to start developing (and it did, b This was equal parts interesting and boring. I loved the innovative magic system, but got sick of the endless descriptions of the taste of wine, I loved our MC 's brightness and cursed his frightened side, loved how his Master took care of him but hated how he kept him purposely in the dark, and so on and so forth. Though I usually prefer the studying/learning stage in such books, I have to say that by the middle of it I was ready for the political/mystery plot to start developing (and it did, but only in the last third of the book). My last criticism is that the story ended abruptly, not in a cliff-hanger sort of way, but rather like as if we were in the middle of a chapter. I think that, had it ended just a chapter earlier, it would have a good, enticing ending, prompting the reader to continue with the series to find out what is going to happen, but it chose to kill the moment with a chapter that could have easily been included in the next installment... All in all, I'm not sure if I'll continue with the series or not.

  6. 5 out of 5

    K. Lincoln

    **I read an ARC of this book** Gilman says in her afterword (or foreword, I can't remember) that she wrote this book after an off-hand comment by her agent about writing her a food-based fantasy. So she did. About wine. About wine that is magic. And so this first book in the series (and it's oh so obvious that it's a first book in a series, basically it just sets up characters, the world, and the magic system and the first taste of the big bad) goes in depth about viniculture and magic. Despite how **I read an ARC of this book** Gilman says in her afterword (or foreword, I can't remember) that she wrote this book after an off-hand comment by her agent about writing her a food-based fantasy. So she did. About wine. About wine that is magic. And so this first book in the series (and it's oh so obvious that it's a first book in a series, basically it just sets up characters, the world, and the magic system and the first taste of the big bad) goes in depth about viniculture and magic. Despite how little high fantasy pleases me these days, I wasn't bored or skimming descriptive passages in this book as I thought I would be. This surprised me. I'm still trying to figure out why. I've read the first two books of her Retrievers series and found them only so-so. But this series, hmmmm...it was fascinating. I'm not sure if it was the grape/wine stuff? Or maybe the whole symbolism of "stressing the vines makes good grapes" juxtaposed with the "stressing the boy makes a good man" concept? Basically the story is about Jerzy, a field slave in the house of Malech, a Vineart (magic wielder who crafts spell-wines). He is plucked from the fields one day to become an apprentice to Malech himself. As Malech's vineyards are attacked and the world around him begins to show signs that something evil is afoot, Jerzy is sent on a spying mission. But really the story is about Jerzy learning to be grow grapes and make spells out of the wine. I think I got it, finally. It's the characters. I liked Malech. I liked Jerzy, and I liked the people he finds on his spying mission. I think the whole religion of the sin-washer was a bit ho hum, but the characters themselves really hooked me. Jerzy isn't your run-of-the-mill special boy chosen to do great deeds. He makes mistakes that matter. He is so very scarred by his time as a slave, and he is very sincere. So I think my reaction to this book is based on how judging the series potential as a whole rather than just the writing in this one book. I sense great things from these characters, I want to find out what is going to happen to them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Jerzy is a slave, working in the vineyard of his master, Malech. He senses the magic inherent in the grapes, and awaits death after the master smites a ten year old boy for an error, but instead, he is brought to the house to be trained as a possible Vineart--master of wine magic. Vinearts are plucked from slaves, as the vinearts believe that the stresses of the slave life bring out the talent, as stresses bring out the best in the harvest. Jerzy learns, as the world begins to show signs of serio Jerzy is a slave, working in the vineyard of his master, Malech. He senses the magic inherent in the grapes, and awaits death after the master smites a ten year old boy for an error, but instead, he is brought to the house to be trained as a possible Vineart--master of wine magic. Vinearts are plucked from slaves, as the vinearts believe that the stresses of the slave life bring out the talent, as stresses bring out the best in the harvest. Jerzy learns, as the world begins to show signs of serious problems that cannot be accounted for by natural, or known magical means. The worldbuilding is delicious--I adore the idea of a magic system based on wine. The noncommital look at a young mage-in-training who suffers from traumatic stress syndrome and the warping that living for protracted periods in survival mode causes; the narrator passes no judgment, but I expect more will be said about that in future volumes. I did have a few questions early on, such as, if slaves are so valuable, why kill them on whim, but that kind of question has diminished as the stakes build. The book ends on a cliff hanger, but you are warned on the cover that this is "book one" in a series. This book beautifully sets up a complicated world, and interesting characters. I was so absorbed that I did not mind a lack of resolution--though I wish I had volume two right now!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nadine Jones

    The plot superficially centers around magic spells (which are linked with wine), and it's set in an imaginary world, so it is superficially a "fantasy" novel. But I found the fantasy aspect to not be central to the plot at all - this could just as easily take place in the "real" world. The main plot is a young boy's coming of age, discovering a vast plot of political intrigue, and finding companions for his quest to discover the truth. This book was very very slow, and while it was well-written The plot superficially centers around magic spells (which are linked with wine), and it's set in an imaginary world, so it is superficially a "fantasy" novel. But I found the fantasy aspect to not be central to the plot at all - this could just as easily take place in the "real" world. The main plot is a young boy's coming of age, discovering a vast plot of political intrigue, and finding companions for his quest to discover the truth. This book was very very slow, and while it was well-written and reasonably entertaining, it was easy to put down and difficult to pick up again. It finally hits its stride in the last chapter and becomes exciting and interesting! It seems to me that this book was just one long set up for a planned series - I wish the author had managed to make this one more fun. Also, I have NO idea why it's titled "Flesh and Fire" - I assume the publishers thought a racy title would create more interest? - the only mention of "flesh" is a sea serpent who is killed and the flesh falls to the ground; the only mention of "fire" is a spell to light candles. Neither is central to the plot.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bruna Bellini

    I tried to read it, but it's sooo boring! Nothing happens! Wizards that are magicians that drink wine from all kind of grapes to have different powers, but even so, we have no action! Anyway, reaaally boring! I tried to read it, but it's sooo boring! Nothing happens! Wizards that are magicians that drink wine from all kind of grapes to have different powers, but even so, we have no action! Anyway, reaaally boring!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    More of a set-up to a series than a complete novel, Flesh and Fire starts off almost painfully slow, but builds into something really interesting. I will continue on with the series.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I found that I didn't feel much liking or sympathy for any of the characters. The plot was fine, but if you don't like the characters, what's the point? I found that I didn't feel much liking or sympathy for any of the characters. The plot was fine, but if you don't like the characters, what's the point?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Pollock

    I’ve decided to give up on books in which the only women are servants or slaves or disempowered aristocrats who must marry easily-manipulated men to succeed at anything.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    (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 (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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karissa

    This is the first book in the "Vineart War Trilogy" by Laura Anne Gilman. I received this book as an Advanced Reading Copy through the Amazon Vine program. I have never read anything from Gilman before, although I have wanted to read her Retrievers series. I have mixed feelings about this book. Gilman created a couple great characters, a very unique and interesting magic system, and a complex world. Unfortunately the plot lags and the book doesn't resolve any story as much as just set things up. This is the first book in the "Vineart War Trilogy" by Laura Anne Gilman. I received this book as an Advanced Reading Copy through the Amazon Vine program. I have never read anything from Gilman before, although I have wanted to read her Retrievers series. I have mixed feelings about this book. Gilman created a couple great characters, a very unique and interesting magic system, and a complex world. Unfortunately the plot lags and the book doesn't resolve any story as much as just set things up. Jerzy is a slave who ends up becoming an Apprentice to the Master Vineart Malech. Malech has noticed strange happenings in the different Vinearts properties, but can't get too involved because of the Vinearts vow to stay out of power struggles. In an attempt to get deeper insight into the problems surrounding him Malech apprentices Jerzy to another Vineart, something completely against tradition. Jerzy is supposed to discover how deeply the trouble has spread. There were some really good things about this book. I loved the unique magic system; using Wine as a magic source is interesting. Gilman has created a world with a deep history and a complex interaction between Vinearts and political figures. The main characters of Malech and Jerzy are fairly well done; although they are not completely engaging, they are interesting characters with depth. The other characters in the book are given minimal page space and are not developed all that well. Although given how some of the characters come together at the end of the book, I think that the next book could be very engaging and Jerzy's travel companions could end up being wonderful characters to read about. I also enjoyed Gilman's writing style; she does a good job describing things in a way that creates great imagery without getting overly wordy. My main problem with this book is the pacing and the plot. Much of the beginning of the book is spent with Jerzy learning Vineart crafts. This is interesting for a while, but gets drawn out too long. There are little hints of bad things going on around Jerzy but he is always removed from them. The point of view switches frequently between Jerzy and Malech; this never really got confusing but it was odd to have viewpoints switched mid-chapter. The story doesn't actually get interesting until the last third of the book where Jerzy goes to apprentice with a different Vineart. I think it is fairly common for the first book in a fantasy trilogy to be mostly about training the hero, getting the world and magic system set up, etc. The problem in this case is that I am guessing that most of Gilman's Retriever series fans are more interested in the pace of an urban fantasy where everything is quickly set up and things actually happen. That is not the case in this book, things are very deliberately approached to the point that I didn't have a real sense of urgency for the story until I was almost to the end of the book. The book also doesn't wrap anything up, because there is no plot to wrap up. My recommendation would be to wait until the second book is released and see how that one does You will probably want to read them one after the other anyway since this book just starts the story. Overall it is an interesting fantasy world, with decent characters, if the plot picks up in the second book this could be a very good series. Based on this book alone, it is just okay.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jaime H

    The premise and idea was interesting. Spellbound wine in a world in which there seems to be three major groups: Vinearts (who control the wine, the spells, and answer to no one), the Princes (who think the Vinearts and the Washers should answer to them but understand the command) and The Washers (who seem to be priestly beings ensuring moral behaviors and that the Sin Washer's commands are upheld). Very creative, a fantasy about magical wine. I love it! As a person who loves wine.... I was game! The premise and idea was interesting. Spellbound wine in a world in which there seems to be three major groups: Vinearts (who control the wine, the spells, and answer to no one), the Princes (who think the Vinearts and the Washers should answer to them but understand the command) and The Washers (who seem to be priestly beings ensuring moral behaviors and that the Sin Washer's commands are upheld). Very creative, a fantasy about magical wine. I love it! As a person who loves wine.... I was game! Sadly, this book didn't maintain my interest and I REALLY had to force myself to finish it. It isn't because it is badly written, it's not at all. It's because it seemed dry, dull, and I felt absolutely ZERO connection to any of the key characters until the last quarter of the book. The first half of the book was so disconnected to the characters that when Jerzy and Master Malech start working together, I could care less that the Slave was being primed to become a vineart due to his natural skills. The characters had nearly zero personality, except for near the end. I have an idea that the next book in this series will have more focus on Jerzy, the student Vineart, Ao, the trader, and Mahault, the daughter of the lord maiar who wants to be a soldier, as a trio. I can not say I glowingly recommend this book, however, I also can't say I don't recommend it. I am very indifferent. The author's writing style is beautiful and descriptive and I believe that the Vineart War can definitely grow into a magical series. I certainly am willing to try the second book when it comes out with hopes it will have much more intrigue and less blandness then it's premiere.

  16. 5 out of 5

    This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For

    Although the concept in the book seems very promising, Flesh and Fire fails to deliver on some level. Although it is the first book of a series, and therefore cannot be expected to tie things up in a neat package, it not only completely fails to resolve anything, it also mostly fails to end on a high note, leaving the reader asking for more. Where is the unexpected plot twist or question which gets things going for the second book? While there are plenty of unresolved issues, I came away hardly Although the concept in the book seems very promising, Flesh and Fire fails to deliver on some level. Although it is the first book of a series, and therefore cannot be expected to tie things up in a neat package, it not only completely fails to resolve anything, it also mostly fails to end on a high note, leaving the reader asking for more. Where is the unexpected plot twist or question which gets things going for the second book? While there are plenty of unresolved issues, I came away hardly caring what happens next. I really like what she did with the magic system based on wines, where spells and their powers come from the characteristics of the grapes and the terroir of the plantings, but it wasn't enough to hold up what was otherwise a fairly weak "mysterious evil plagues the land; a young apprentice is the only hope for salvation" plot.

  17. 5 out of 5

    CV Rick

    There were more cliches in the first 50 pages than I could stand. Victim, slave, magic, potions, mystery, UFL (ubiquitous fantasy land). The whole time I was just begging her to get to the damned story already because the world building was so unnecessary. She could've just started the book with the following statement, "We enter a world I ripped off from the last 30 fantasy writers with multibook series and although my magic system is different, it's so little different that you might as well j There were more cliches in the first 50 pages than I could stand. Victim, slave, magic, potions, mystery, UFL (ubiquitous fantasy land). The whole time I was just begging her to get to the damned story already because the world building was so unnecessary. She could've just started the book with the following statement, "We enter a world I ripped off from the last 30 fantasy writers with multibook series and although my magic system is different, it's so little different that you might as well just ignore it and now I'm dropping you into the plot and saving everyone from slogging through a rehash of all other fantasy books for the first inch of pages." One could only wish. Dropping it into the garbage. Thank you.

  18. 4 out of 5

    DemetraP

    I really enjoyed this book. It had fascinating world building. How do you put magic into wine and make it spellwine? How do you use spellwine? How do you become a Vineart and have your own Vineyard? The tiny details of this magic wine and the world that uses it was really well written. This book felt like a very unique read to me. I can't think of another book like it. Basically a slave is discovered to have the ability to become a Vineart and he starts training. But something is going wrong acro I really enjoyed this book. It had fascinating world building. How do you put magic into wine and make it spellwine? How do you use spellwine? How do you become a Vineart and have your own Vineyard? The tiny details of this magic wine and the world that uses it was really well written. This book felt like a very unique read to me. I can't think of another book like it. Basically a slave is discovered to have the ability to become a Vineart and he starts training. But something is going wrong across the land. Something is wrong with magic. The book focuses on the training and how to become a Vineart with the plot of something wrong lurking in the background. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy fantasy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Too slow for me. I think it's partly on purpose, setting a certain tone in a world that has been (or seems to have been) virtually unchanged for 1500 years and showing how people react to sudden crisis. But it dragged a lot; if I wasn't a huge fan of the author's I may not have stuck it out. I like the concepts and the characters, but I think she got a bit stuck in a set-up mode, similar to in her first PSI book. It seems like she wanted to show the learning process the characters went through, Too slow for me. I think it's partly on purpose, setting a certain tone in a world that has been (or seems to have been) virtually unchanged for 1500 years and showing how people react to sudden crisis. But it dragged a lot; if I wasn't a huge fan of the author's I may not have stuck it out. I like the concepts and the characters, but I think she got a bit stuck in a set-up mode, similar to in her first PSI book. It seems like she wanted to show the learning process the characters went through, but didn't do a good enough job of weaving it in with some action. But her second PSI book was fantastic and I'm hoping the second in this series continues the trend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ally Marie

    I read 90 pages of the book and decided not to finish reading it for the monthly book club read. I found the pacing of the story to be very slow and I personally never felt pulled into the plot. The only character I was interested in was Jerzy and I quickly became bored with how slowly he was progressing with his training. The writing was too descriptive and repetitive regarding daily tasks which I found to be distracting. I have heard that the story has more action in the second half of the boo I read 90 pages of the book and decided not to finish reading it for the monthly book club read. I found the pacing of the story to be very slow and I personally never felt pulled into the plot. The only character I was interested in was Jerzy and I quickly became bored with how slowly he was progressing with his training. The writing was too descriptive and repetitive regarding daily tasks which I found to be distracting. I have heard that the story has more action in the second half of the book for readers who try out this series. I may try another one of her books in the future if the recommendation comes from family or friends.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I was a bit skeptical at first - who has ever heard of a fantasy book set around wine? (I am willing to acknowledge the magical properties of alcohol as quickly as anyone, but still....). My skepticism quickly went away. Gilman weaves a fascinating world, one where the earthly problems of agriculture mixes with the dangers, mysticism, and thrill of magic. Mixing in different elements - a slave society, mixed with a noble class, adds complexity and social tensions to the story as well. It is a gr I was a bit skeptical at first - who has ever heard of a fantasy book set around wine? (I am willing to acknowledge the magical properties of alcohol as quickly as anyone, but still....). My skepticism quickly went away. Gilman weaves a fascinating world, one where the earthly problems of agriculture mixes with the dangers, mysticism, and thrill of magic. Mixing in different elements - a slave society, mixed with a noble class, adds complexity and social tensions to the story as well. It is a great start to the series.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David Hankerson

    This is a great fantasy epic in the vein of George RR Martin's "Song of Fire n Ice". Compelling characters that you care about, lots of political intrigue, a smattering of action and of course a touch of magic. WHat's unique about this book is the basis of magic in this world--wine. The descriptions are so vivid, I could almoste tast the wine on my tongue. A great marriage of my two loves---reading and food(wine). This is a great fantasy epic in the vein of George RR Martin's "Song of Fire n Ice". Compelling characters that you care about, lots of political intrigue, a smattering of action and of course a touch of magic. WHat's unique about this book is the basis of magic in this world--wine. The descriptions are so vivid, I could almoste tast the wine on my tongue. A great marriage of my two loves---reading and food(wine).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    I couldn't get myself to finish this typical boring book. I just didn't find myself caring about the main character at all. Sure - he's a natural, and as he's learning, the master is so surprised to see that he gets it right away, with every single spell - every single time. oye. I couldn't get myself to finish this typical boring book. I just didn't find myself caring about the main character at all. Sure - he's a natural, and as he's learning, the master is so surprised to see that he gets it right away, with every single spell - every single time. oye.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    Just couldn't get into this story. It moved way too slow an the story line just did not capture me. I tried to get through it but after 120 pgs just wasn't worth any more of my time Just couldn't get into this story. It moved way too slow an the story line just did not capture me. I tried to get through it but after 120 pgs just wasn't worth any more of my time

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daphne

    Did not like. Maybe I just couldn't get past the silly premise of having magic based solely on the quality of grapes to make wine. Did not like. Maybe I just couldn't get past the silly premise of having magic based solely on the quality of grapes to make wine.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beko

    Interesting Magic system. Great Story.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Schnaucl

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Gilman has created an original and interesting method for magic to be created and used. Magic is created (grown?)in grapes, which are then harvested by slaves. Next, the grapes are mashed together to form mustus. Finally, they are turned into magic wine called spellwine, or ordinary wine called vin ordinaire, depending on the magic content of the mustus. The spellwine is then sold to people in power (though Vinearts also retain a fair amount) who can use the wine by sipping it and using a three Gilman has created an original and interesting method for magic to be created and used. Magic is created (grown?)in grapes, which are then harvested by slaves. Next, the grapes are mashed together to form mustus. Finally, they are turned into magic wine called spellwine, or ordinary wine called vin ordinaire, depending on the magic content of the mustus. The spellwine is then sold to people in power (though Vinearts also retain a fair amount) who can use the wine by sipping it and using a three part invocation. Vinearts can do more powerful things with spellwine, particularly if the wine is from their orchards and/or if they have crafted it. Like wine in the real world, the wine that is produced by the Vinearts varies according to the conditions under which the grapes were grown. Therefore, one region makes healing wines, another deals with making magic wind for sailors, etc. Only Vinearts have the magic necessary to make spellwine, but they have extremely limited ability to do much of anything magical (besides create spellwine)without the aide of spellwine. The book begins with a little prehistory. Originally, rulers of men both created and used the spellwine and the spellwine could do any kind of magic, it was not limited by the growing conditions. The princes forced those they ruled to do nothing but grow and harvest the grapes for the wine, which meant that other work, such as growing food to eat, went undone and many starved. A god, Sinwasher, was born, and he told the princes on numerous occasions to stop abusing their power. When they ignored him, he changed the grapes so that princes could no longer cultivate the grapes themselves, and spellwine was no longer capable of producing all kinds of magic, instead, it was limited by the conditions under which the grapes were grown. The only people who could create spellwine were the Vinearts, and while they are allowed to sell spellwine to rulers, they are forbidden from influencing politics directly. Due to religious custom, most Vinearts are extremely solitary. They don't interact much with the world at large or even other Vinearts. The story begins with a young slave. The reader has a few chapters to have the horrors of slavery impressed upon her, and then it is revealed that the slave has the sensitivity to magic to make him into a Vineart, at which point he recalls his given name (Jerzy) and begins his training, which allows the reader to learn with Jerzy the subtleties of how magic works in the world Gilman has created. Learning magic with Jerzy is interesting and well done. I have a problem with the slavery angle, however. The Sinwasher took the power away from the rulers because they were oppressing their people and making them into slaves...but then the Vinearts have slaves basically doing the same thing. Is it supposed to be okay because it's a smaller part of the population or because the slaves are generally foreign? No one seems to see the inconsistency in that. Apparently, all Vinearts (all men, of course) started as slaves because like the grapes they have to be tempered by stressful conditions. It's a stretch, but I can go with it. The problem is that it's not revealed until a few chapters after the reader has the cruelties of the Master and Overseer drilled into her so I found myself very distracted and frustrated by the existence of slavery. The slaves are clearly not viewed as human beings and are referred to as "it." Another problem with the portrayal of slavery is that it's inconsistent. Near the beginning a child spills a vat of mustus (thus allowing Jerzy to reveal his sensitivity to the magic in the wine) and the child is immediately killed for the waste. But not long after there's an accident which kills a couple of slaves and Master Malech talks about how he can't afford to replace the slaves. It seems to me that if a Vineart can't afford to replace slaves, he can't afford to kill them off as punishment. I get that an example needs to be set, but permanently eliminating a worker while short staffed doesn't make any sense. A good portion of the book is taken up with Jerzy learning to be civilized (learning to read, bathe, do math, fight, etc) as well as learning how to be a Vineart. Naturally, there's also some great evil threatening the world. Master Malech seems to be one of the few people who has picked up on it and he begins tracking unusual occurrences. Many of the vineyards are attacked either with abnormally large creatures, or with diseases out of season. He radically increases the pace of Jerzy's training, which Jerzy can handle since he's a prodigy. The action really picks up in the last quarter or so of the book when Malech decides to send Jerzy to apprentice for a short time under a different Vineart. It's not technically against their religion, but it's certainly against tradition and attracts the attention of the religious authorities. The purpose of the apprenticeship is both the obvious, to learn about other wines and techniques, and the hidden, to listen for rumors of unusual occurrences. While apprenticing under Vineart Giordan, Jerzy meets Ao, a tradesmen about his own age. From Ao he learns how to listen without appearing to be eavesdropping. Unfortunately, this section also became frustrating because it's very obvious to the reader that what Jerzy should be picking up on is the sudden change in the maiar's (ruler) behavior. I understand he's supposed to have lived a sheltered life, but several people make comments about the change in behavior and how unusual he's acting so even if he is somewhat naive I would think that both he and Ao would figure out that's important. There's no excuse for the much more sophisticated Ao not picking up on that. A further concern, at least for me, is that the magic of the vineyards apparently kills the libido. This ensures that the Vineart isn't distracted by a wife and family and can focus only on wine production. I like to have some thread of romance in my fantasy. It doesn't have to be the focus, and, in fact, I prefer it not to be (if I want that I'd read paranormal romance or romance books) but I do want something and with no libido it doesn't look like it's going to happen with Jerzy, although there is a girl who eventually gets caught up with Jerzy and Ao. The pacing for the first 2/3 of the book is pretty slow and more than once I thought that it would make a great short story but I'm not convinced it will make a good series. However, the take on magic is pretty creative, and the pacing did pick up at the last part of the book so I may give the second book a try.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Huntsinger

    I came into this book really wanting to love it. I like it when authors make unique magic systems and then exploring how that effects the world they build around it. I also enjoy watching a hero rise from poor conditions into greatness. I don't mind an environment with dark undertones either. These things are all fine with me and are aspects I expected from Flesh and Fire but... I need to talk about how much of this story is brought down by both structure, and by shoddy character development. Fo I came into this book really wanting to love it. I like it when authors make unique magic systems and then exploring how that effects the world they build around it. I also enjoy watching a hero rise from poor conditions into greatness. I don't mind an environment with dark undertones either. These things are all fine with me and are aspects I expected from Flesh and Fire but... I need to talk about how much of this story is brought down by both structure, and by shoddy character development. For myself this story is trying to do too much. Often times I felt as if I was reading from too many different perspectives with no clear demarcation between the voices. In audio books this is a common problem because you don't see the the transition that the writer offers, but that wasn't the case because there wasn't one in the book. That isn't to say that there aren't scene changes, only that perspectives shift too much in those scenes, especially in the beginning. The next big structural problem I'm having is with the side story in this book. As a first book in a series I get that the writer is trying to set things up, but this story lacked any subtlety. There is no way you can miss the subtext, there isn't any. The issue will associate with the main character and friends at some point, but not in this book. Instead as a reader I feel I know too much, I see what is going on too clearly, and I guess in the end my biggest complaint is that Laura Anne Gilman is showing too much, too soon. If this side story were cutout of the book I wouldn't miss anything. Heck I would probably have been more intrigued about the side plot if I only knew what the main characters know from hearsay. Oh and one last point, I haven't yet enjoyed a book where I see a person die from their perspective, I haven't liked it yet. This even more so since I barely got to know the character before their death. I end up feeling forced into spending time with a character that only plays a small role, so far, I can only hope that there is more pay off in the rest of the series. Ok this is where I will use a spoiler tag because I really need to vent some frustration but to do so means I need to go into some parts of the story that may or may not be obvious. The main problem I have with this story is that the main character barely seems to grow or become aware of anything inherently wrong with the way of things, even when at one point specifically having it pointed out. Then there are the parts in the story which I feel are only brought up to make the character seem dark and edgy. With that said. (view spoiler)[Slavery is really oddly handled in this book, and I haven't seen a redeeming value to its use. Jerzy a slave who then becomes recognized as having a gift to become a Vineart, which is the status quo, only shows a sense of staying accustomed to it. Sure that is the only way this to find magical talent in this world, but he doesn't read like a slave to me, more as someone bullied, or having a difficult teacher. When he gets freedom that seems odd to him, but he never rises above this slavery custom. This may be a problem for me as a reader, still I think it is valid to say that I found his reaction and views on slavery odd. He even goes so far as to defend it when he finds himself in a part of the world that disagrees with the custom. It might be that I didn't like the book's world because it sort of condoned this system as a necessity and I don't think it was necessary. The Vinearts could have taken on apprentices and been harsh and cruel but had no choice in the apprenticeship. I can think of a dozen different ways to go about this that wouldn't have had to have a, yep this world must have slavery. In my opinion the author made this a choice because it made the world darker. This alone isn't my only issue with the main character because at random moments we learn that while in his captivity before the story proper he was molested. Ok, I'm being straight here, that is nothing to use lightly, that is big, regardless of male or female, that is something that scars people. It takes a lot out of a persons, especially at a young age. Using that sort of traumatic experience should build us a better frame for the character help us understand his frame of reference, but here I felt it was used just to give the story a darker edge. It was uncomfortable and was administered like a shot to the arm. It hurts for a bit but didn't leave a lasting impression. It felt forced, fake, and only put in to again push how dark this world really is. I do not appreciate the way this content was used at all. (hide spoiler)] That said I did want to point out the obvious deus ex machina character in this story. I don't mind there being that one character that turns into a helpful ally, but this book doesn't even try and ease that character in. The introduction is so poorly handle there isn't even a shred of an illusion as to his role to Jerzy. The last problem I have with the story is the ending. It was flat, rushed and also, it wasn't an ending. It was obvious that this book was designed to build up interest in the next book, but that doesn't make a good book to me. I love having questions but I don't even think any of the ones that I had in this book were really addressed. I felt like I was left holding only half a book, and not the whole story and for me that isn't a good feeling to end a book on. Oh but like the beginning of this book, it doesn't end from the perspective of the main character but instead leaves us at a scene from the side plot I discussed having issues with earlier. With that said there are these nuggets of story I do like, the magic system is very well thought out and enjoyed the process that the Vinearts practice to make and use magic. Even though I don't particularly like the direction used in creating Jerzy, I found myself cheering him on, and hoping that he will start to have control of his own destiny. His relationship with his master is a good one even with the odd customs of this world.

  29. 4 out of 5

    BobA707

    Summary: Classic fantasy, a really interesting and different magic system that really seems to work, mixed in with a coming of age story and undertones of a coming war. Looking forward to book 2 Plotline: Slow deliberate build up of a large plot centred around on young slave /vineart Premise: The magic system is really interesting with plenty more to learn Writing: Simple effective thorough. Ending:Worst part of the book ends in the middle of the story, though to be fair after a major event and chan Summary: Classic fantasy, a really interesting and different magic system that really seems to work, mixed in with a coming of age story and undertones of a coming war. Looking forward to book 2 Plotline: Slow deliberate build up of a large plot centred around on young slave /vineart Premise: The magic system is really interesting with plenty more to learn Writing: Simple effective thorough. Ending:Worst part of the book ends in the middle of the story, though to be fair after a major event and change of direction. Pace: Never a dull moment!

  30. 5 out of 5

    mobydickens

    Not worth the read. I've always thought verbalizing the difference between good writing and bad writing is extremely difficult. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is different, but one writer can bring a story to life while another just tells you what is happening. The story and telling just weren't interesting, though I could feel this writer's desire to create something really new and different. Spellwine! It was flat, dull, and the plot and characters really had no umph to them. I probably wo Not worth the read. I've always thought verbalizing the difference between good writing and bad writing is extremely difficult. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is different, but one writer can bring a story to life while another just tells you what is happening. The story and telling just weren't interesting, though I could feel this writer's desire to create something really new and different. Spellwine! It was flat, dull, and the plot and characters really had no umph to them. I probably wouldn't have finished the book had it not been a recommendation.

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