Flesh and Fire
Laura Anne Gilman

Tantor Media, Onc
Hardcover/198 pages
ISBN: 1400195233
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". . .the soil in which future fantasies are grown."

Flesh and Fire: Seductive, innovative and masterful fantasy.

Jerzy followed Master Malech away from the vineyard and the slave quarters to find a new life filled with marvels and magic. He was to become Master Malech’s new apprentice. But had he been a slave too long to make him a Vineart worthy of Malech’s house?

There is danger in the land. Blights, diseases and sea serpents thought long extinct rise out of season and ravage the countryside. The grape vines are the heart and soul of the land and the very essence of magic. Someone or something seeks to destroy the magic and the fate of the vines, and the land may lie in Jerzy’s hands if he can call the magic within.

Magic comes in many forms: incantations, potions, wands, words and wills. There are also many forms of magic in the winds, waves, animals, plants and even hair in the works of a variety of authors. For the first time, however, there is a new magic, the magic of wine. Laura Anne Gilman calls them “spellwines”. They do everything from heal and call the winds to create fires that can burn water.

It isn’t the spellwine that can burn water that makes Flesh and Fire unique, but the world Gilman has created with such care and attention to detail. From Jerzy’s stumbling steps as a slave whose world is turned upside down, to the intrigues and politics that make a king decide to take his island home from the rest of the world, each carefully wrought scenario fits like an interlocking piece of a vast puzzle that dazzles and seduces.

Gilman states that her editor asked for a fantasy based on wine. Flesh and Fire, the first installment of the Vineart War, is the result. The way Gilman dwells lovingly on the different tastes and effects of each spellwine is proof of her own love for wine and the art of winemaking, all of which are intricately detailed, sometimes to the point of tedium. Yet the story never falters. This is a fantasy that takes the communion of religion and wine and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and creates a world of magic taken from those who abused the power and put it in the hands of slaves, the Sin Washer determining how the magic would and could be used. There is also a strong scientific influence evident in the mythology of the Vineart’s world that does not detract from the basic fantasy elements, crafted like the blending of fine wines.

The writing is clear and lyrical, most often when describing the taste and effects of the spellwines, creating a fascinating, engrossing and seductive epic tale that never breaks pace. Flesh and Fire is the soil in which future fantasies are grown.


Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell