Weight of Stone
Book 2 of the Vineart War
Laura Anne Gilman

Simon & Schuster
October 1 2010
Hardcover/384 pages
ISBN: 978-1439101452
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". . . a tale that lingers pleasantly on the mental palate."

Jerzy, Ao and Mahault have traded for a seaworthy boat to take them away from the Sin Washers after Jerzy for being an apostate. Jerzy convinced Ao, a trader, and Mahault, the maiar’s daughter, that there is something potent and evil behind all the trouble and they set out to finish the work Master Malech of the House of Malech set Jerzy when he went against tradition to send him to Vineart Giordan to learn some new methods of handling grapes vines.

Jerzy’s world is well circumscribed. He lives near and works the vines that produce the grapes to go into spellwines, vin magica, and table wines, vin ordinaire. Chosen and trained by Master Malech because he possessed the gift of quiet magic already within him from working as a slave in the fields since childhood, Jerzy never questioned Malech’s break with tradition. Although daunted and afraid of the wider world beyond the reach of his house’s fields, Jerzy finds himself changing in new and surprising ways, the very ways that led to being denounced as apostate and fleeing from Sin Washer’s priests with his friends, his first and only friends outside of his House.

The trio jump overboard from their burning boat during a storm and Kaïnam, prince and heir of the king of Atakus, rescues them. Kaïnam is on the trail of the same taint that pushed his father and their Vineart to hide their island from the rest of the world and set protections around that may have resulted in the destruction of the entire Caulian fleet sent to find out why Atakus suddenly disappeared. They are on the same trail and even Kaïnam is willing to let Jerzy lead the way, following the apprentice Vineart’s sense of the taint of darkness that leads not to Caul but farther beyond the known lands. When the Guardian contacts Jerzy and orders him to return to the House of Malech to face the Sin Washers’ questions, the fellowship of four is broken up. Mahault and Jerzy return to Master Malech’s and Ao and Kaïnam take the ship to Caul to find answers. Mahault eventually goes to a Solitaire to apprentice and Jerzy returns to his old life, unable to fit neatly back into the Jerzy-sized space he once inhabited. Now he must fit into a new space while searching for the taint that is creating chaos in the Lands Vin.

In the second installment of Laura Anne Gilman’s Vineart War series, with the pace set by the first book, Flesh and Fire, Weight of Stone picks up with Jerzy, Ao and Mahault on ship and Jerzy violently ill and the pace and power do not slacken from that point on. The world of Vinearts, Sin Washers and rulers with their complex political and religious separations is written with authenticity. There is no corner of the world that is not aptly peopled or a minor character that lacks depth or subtlety. The world of Weight of Stone is fully realized and as magical as the spellwines of the Vinearts’ crafting.

Although Weight of Stone stands alone with deftly written back story that never intrudes on the main focus of the tale, I recommend reading Flesh and Fire first. Immersed in the culture, magic and Gilman’s wondrous world crafting, it is impossible not to be swept on a tide of incomparable fantasy. Even though told from Jerzy’s point of view, none of the other characters, neither major nor minor, suffer in comparison. Well written without the bad lingering aftertaste that marks many fantasy trilogies, Weight of Stone is like a fine wine from a master vintner: full bodied, fresh and satisfying, a tale that lingers pleasantly on the mental palate.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell