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The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith
4.75
Book Name: The Vine Witch
Author: Luanne G. Smith
Publisher(s): 47North
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Historical Fantasy
Release Date: October 1, 2019

If Game of Thrones was isolated to the French wine country.

I confess, the cover for The Vine Witch didn’t grab my attention, nor did the premise particularly interest me. A witch and a French vineyard? MEH. Besides the old TV show, Bewitched, witch stories have never particularly interested me.

And wine? Well, remember the scene in Ratatouille, where Remy describes complex flavors? And his brother thinks he’s crazy? Yeah, I’m one of those people who doesn’t get wine culture and so had no reason to check out The Vine Witch. The only thing going for it was the rustic French setting, which brought me back to my days as a French literature major. That, and it was free in Amazon First Reads; and with my new Kindle Unlimited trial subscription, I had access to the audiobook.

With my prejudices against witches and wine, I didn’t expect to be mesmerized from the first paragraph. But, it enthralled me with imaginative storytelling, and kept me guessing at the twisting plot, so much that I couldn’t put it down.

At the sentence and paragraph levels, the prose is evocative—at times, downright decadent—without being glaringly purple or having to draw on SAT words. The author crafts beautiful similes and metaphors at just the right time to keep me in awe of her wordsmithing. If it’s any testament to her writing, I wanted to believe her world was real, and that it was a place I could visit and do out-of-character things like tasting wine and binge on pastries. (Okay, binging on pastries is NOT out of character.)

The wondrous prose immerses the reader in a uniquely crafted world (I’m sure the French would say that about its wine country, magic or not) where there are several forms of magic: blood magic, pastry magic, fortune telling, djinn, curses, and more. For the titular character, Elena, it is vine magic—the kind that knows just how to grow the perfect grapes for the perfect vines by certain rituals and observations.

Cursed by a mysterious witch to live as a frog for the past seven years, she returns to human form, only to find her world changed. Turn-of-the-century technologies like the automobile encroach on a pastoral lifestyle. More importantly to Elena is the vineyard that adopted her as a youth: floundering since her disappearance, it has been sold to a lawyer from the city.

Jean-Paul is enamored with wine, but ignorant and skeptical of the magic that goes into creating the wines. As such, in his three years there, he has yet to create anything better than swill.

Driven both by vengeance and a desire to revive the vineyard, Elena is thrust into a complex plot involving betrayals, backstabbing, and deep-rooted conspiracies, along with a marvelous twist at the end I didn’t see coming. In this, The Vine Witch is what Game of Thrones would be if it were isolated to the French wine country.

Taking into account the beautiful wordsmithing, the immersive setting and worldbuilding, and the clever plot, I rate The Vine Witch 9.5 out of 10.

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