Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Flesh and Fire

Book Details
Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 374
Publishing Info: October 13th 2009 by Pocket

My Review
Why I read it: Reading Cove Book Club
The Plot: 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.

The first half (or maybe 3/4ths) of this book was agonizingly slow.  Page after page of pretty much the same thing.  It's very much a set-up book for the rest of the series.
The Characters: Jerzy is the main character, and he's really the only one we get to know.  I felt like we knew every thought and feeling of Jerzy's, but didn't get beyond the surface of any of the other characters.  You'd expect that in a first person novel, but this was third person, and the author could have done better in that aspect.
The Setting: The setting is described in great detail in this book, over and over.  If you read this and can't picture the grapevines and the buildings and such, you're just not trying.  There are plenty of things we could have been given more information about, but the setting wasn't one of them.
A Sample of the Writing:
Jerzy refused to allow those memories to resurface.  That was a life that had happened to someone else, a story told and retold until he knew all the twists and turns but felt little of the emotions the players must have felt.  It was Then.  This, the aches and pains of his backside, the jostle and slosh of the spellwines on his saddle, the creak of the leathers and the clodding noises of the horses' hooves on the packed dirt road, this was the Now.  Now he was no slave, but an apprentice Vineart on a mission of great importance for his master.
Who Should Read This? Those who like descriptive writing.
Final Thoughts: If I hadn't have been reading this as a group read, I would have most likely given up on it.  It was just so slow for most of the book.  The writing wasn't necessarily bad, it was just over-descriptive (I tried to give a sample of the descriptive writing above) and a bit repetitive.  Surprisingly, the last bit of the book made up for it.  It was enough for me to say I actually liked the book.  I feel that this was an overly long set-up, but it was quite the set-up, and done well enough to make me want to read the next book, so I'd consider that it did it's job.  Now, if I read the second book and there's another half a book of set-up, that'll be it for me with this author.  We'll see.
Grade: B
Cover Thoughts: I like the cover, and I think it fits pretty well with the story.

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