Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Review: 'The Vine Witch' (Vine Witch #1) by Luanne G. Smith

Why does it take me so long to read books that I just know I’ll probably love? I have no answer. It will be a question that will continue to haunt me, as The Vine Witch becomes the latest proof that I just need to trust.my.gut.instinct and read the books I pick up. Just look at that cover and tell me I shouldn't have known better. Magic, wine, France, curses, and a hint fo romance; what else could I have asked for. Thanks to 47North and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

What is it about herbs, spell books and secret rituals that is so utterly enticing to so many of us? In The Vine Witch we encounter age old traditions, passed on by a mentor, which are deeply embedded in the natural surroundings of our main characters. Perhaps it is this, connection, that makes it do heartwarming. Luanne G. Smith manages to create a world much like our own, with the definite difference that magic is real and, kind of, accepted. People don't like to see it too much (which Muggle has ever enjoyed knowing their lack of power) but they know the benefits it brings. What sets The Vine Witch apart, for me, is the genius of combining something as intricate and moody as wine making with witchcraft. Both require an intricate knowledge of the elements and the earth. Both require spending time pouring, measuring, stirring, testing, tasting. Both are full of tips and tricks particular to each region and family. I was thrilled from the very beginning!

Elena is not living her best life at the beginning of The Vine Witch. I won't betray the nature of her curse but it was not only a great start, it also retains its relevance throughout the novel. Once she manages to find her way back to her home, the vineyard where she learnt her craft, she finds out that years have passed and nothing is the same. As Elena sets about trying to fix her vineyard, Smith weaves in different plot elements that all come together rather neatly at the end. There is vengeance required for the curse. There is a brooding, science-minded city boy to deal with. And then there are the other, strange, magical happenings throughout the Chanceaux Valley that will need a witch to unravel them. The Vine Witch moves rather quickly but knows where to pack its emotional punches. 

Smith's novel soars on its premise, which I've already discussed in the first paragraph. It is a great idea that she is able to unpack and broaden throughout the novel without relying on exposition. She easily creates a sense of tradition and lore, while also leaving plenty of hints at further expansion. Her main character, Elena, is easy to adore as her passion for her craft, loved ones and vineyard shines through every action. I also found myself warming to the other characters rather quickly. The Vine Witch is not an overly complicated novel and perhaps has more of a romance theme than the blurb suggests. However, it is a very comfortable and warm read that lets you escape into another world for a few hours. There is enough intrigue and mystery to keep a reader less in love with magic interested as well. Although The Vine Witch is the start of a series, it does feel like a complete book on its own. Although there are a few story lines left open for the next novel, The GlamouristThe Vine Witch begins and ends its own story, refusing to leave readers waiting for a conclusion.

I give this novel...
4 Universes!

I adored The Vine Witch and absolutely raced through it. With a nice concept and solid world building, Smith has crafted a lovely standalone and great starter to her Vine Witch series. I'll be reviewing its sequel, The Glamourist, later this month. 

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