Author: Laura Ann Gilman
Who should read it? Anyone who has ever loved a fantasy book or who thinks they might ever love a fantasy book.
What I Have to Say: I can't even remember the last time I wanted to give a book 5 stars; this book was such an amazingly wonderful pleasant surprise for me. The magic in this book is wine-based, and the magicians in this book spend the majority of time cultivating their vines and making this magical wine (and vin ordinaire). They story also takes place in a world that is governed by politics and religion; with extremely not-subtle references to Christianity - Sin Washer as Jesus, Washer as priest - that reign through the entire book. As an agnostic who hates wine, I was really expecting for this to be one of those books that I enjoy while reading and then forget about. NOT THE CASE!
This book isn't non-stop action packed, instead taking more time to focus on Jerzy's (our protagonist's) life as a student and his coming-of-age, the plot itself unveiling slowly and mysteriously thoughout the course of the book. Despite that it takes ages before seeing any semblance of a real plot, I couldn't put it down, couldn't stop turning page after page after page, DYING to know more about the world Gilman has created and the trials and tribulations of Jerzy and his Master, Malech.
It is one of the most exciting and creative books that I have read in a long time. Gilman's writing manages to be both simple and colorfully descriptive, creating an experience for the reader that is both visual and sensual. She casts a spell over the reader as she weaves her tale of innocence, confusion, destruction, and lies. The characters she creates are well-developed and likable, all slightly mysterious in their own way, all unique.
It didn't even bother me that this book didn't really end, not even with a cliffhanger. Yes, I WANT MORE!!!!!, and it would have been nice if she had given us something to go with, but in the end it didn't really matter. I'm going to be thinking about this book for a long time regardless.
Summary (from Goodreads): N.B. If you want to read this book, I wouldn't read this summary! It gives away the whole book!Fourteen centuries ago, all power was held by the prince-mages, who alone could craft the spell-wines. But the people revolted against harsh rule, and were saved by a demigod called Sin-Washer, who broke the First Vine, shattering the hold of the prince-mages.
In 1378 ASW, princes still rule, but Vinearts now make spellwines, less powerful than in days of old. Jerzy, a young slave, has just begun his studies to become a Vineart when his master uncovers the first stirrings of a plot to finish the work Sin-Washer began, and shatter the remains of the Vine forever. Only his master believes the magnitude and danger of this plot. And only Jerzy has the ability to stop it…before there are no more Vinearts left at all.
Final Question: How do you feel about non-Christian books with obvious references to Christianity, like this book, where the story of Jesus is paralleled by the story of Sin Washer? I'm personally agnostic, so I don't really care. I mostly find it interesting, but I know that it upsets some people. I have even heard it said that it is blasphemous. So you, my dear readers, what do you think?
Disclosure: This book was provided by Pocket Books so that I could give an honest review.