The Shattered Vine by Laura Anne Gilman
Rarely does a series end leaving me so completely content.
My fascination with the Vineart War (Flesh and Fire, Weight of Stone, The Shattered Vine) is with watching its characters grow. The grand quest of a fantasy novel carries the story onward, but it is the strength of the characters fumbling their way through what the world is throwing at them that makes the Vineart War so compelling. That strong characterization really shines in The Shattered Vine. Jerzy has been wavering on the line between slave and Vineart throughout the entire series, but it is in Shattered Vine that he really comes into his own. But its not only the main character that evolves throughout- his companions do a fair share of growing themselves, and together it is a pleasure to read.
The politics and mysticism of the world that Gilman has built remains strong to the end, providing a fascinating framework on which the events of the Vineart War build to and equally strong crisis point. What really makes the conclusion of the series stand apart is its ability to end. There is no drawn out aftermath necessary to pull the reader through loose ends being tied together. It may come off as abrupt- I was initially astounded at the lack of wrap up- but as I sat digesting the events of the series, I found my lips curling into a rather content smile. By the end of Shattered Vine I knew the characters well enough that I was able to sit back and appreciate the ending and everything it implied.
I would not have wanted it to end any other way.
If you are looking for a wonderfully unique fantasy with engaging characters and a deeply interesting world pick up the Vineart War books.
I am a fan of covers when it comes to music. I enjoy mash ups- one artist being inspired by another, taking bits and pieces here to tell another story, to expand upon the original idea. It allows everything involved to grow and become so much more. I have similar tastes when it comes to writing. I love shared worlds as well as retellings. And I really, really, enjoy re-imaginings of Alice in Wonderland. This makes me both the target audience for (re)Visions Alice, as well as one of its more difficult customers.
The collection starts with a visit by Lewis Carroll himself, setting the mood, reminding us all of that first time we ran across a White Rabbit, a Queen of Hearts, and a horrifyingly beautiful world of talking animals and relentless riddles. From there, it is like picking up pieces of a puzzle and trying to decipher the hidden bit of Wonderland that lingers and languishes throughout each of the contained stories.
They are not all obvious- (re)Visions is refreshingly devoid of bland recitations of a familiar plot. We have a runaway who finds out he is more than he ever imagined and is fumbling his way through a city caught in the terrifying grip of Jack the Ripper. We have a shadow of Wonderland that is cast in film noir. The Queen of Hearts is given a history and a fearsome opponent. We have a mouse that would rather be a man. Through it all there are glimpses of the Wonderland we all remember, and that recognition brings to the reader a sort of fascination that keeps them reading, looking for more of the pieces they can remember being played.
It is a wonderful collection- each story sings out strongly and stands well on its own. They are all memorable and mesmerizing. As I finished the final page, I found myself grasping for more- not of any of the stories I had read as they all stood their ground quite well- but I wanted the collection itself to continue. It will appeal to avid fans of Wonderland, as well as those who merely remember it fondly from childhood stories or movies.
(re)Visions Alice will be available in October 2011 from Candlemark & Gleam. Keep your eyes on this one- you will not want to miss it!