After breaking a curse that forced her to live as a frog for years, Elena Boureanu returns to the Chateau Renard, which is not just the vineyard where she worked as a vine witch, but the place she calls home. Elena soon finds she can’t simply pick up the pieces of her former life, for several reasons, including the new owner of the chateau, Jean-Paul. Elena wasn’t the only one who fell prey to a curse, however. Once she persuades Jean-Paul to let her stay at the chateau, Elena begins to work out a plan to find out who cursed her and the vineyard. While doing so, she must keep her powers a secret from Jean-Paul and her return a secret from whoever cursed her.
Review By Milliebot Reads
ARC E-BOOK, 291 pages
2019, 47 NORTH
Thank you to 47 North and Wunderkind PR for sending me this book for free in exchange for my honest review.
I was pretty intrigued when this book by Luanne G. Smith showed up at my doorstep. I love witches. I love wine. Why wouldn’t I love a book about witches who use their magic to help vineyards prosper and make fantastic wine?
Sadly, the book ended up being a bit of a let-down, but it was by no means terrible.
I was pleasantly surprised to find it set in “ye olde times.” That’s because I missed the blurb on the PR sheet which says: “The Vine Witch is a gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France and a debut from a talented new voice that I wouldn’t want you to miss!”
The back of the book doesn’t clue the reader in to what era the story takes place in and at first it was hard to tell. I kind of enjoyed that it wasn’t immediately obvious when the story was taking place, but then I was a little confused because my brain kept asking how I was supposed to picture the setting. Once a car was introduced into the story, I knew for sure this book wasn’t set in “modern times.”
Which is a nice segue to the writing style. At times it felt a bit forced and overly flourishy. The main example is how Elena views cars. She describes them two or three times as having a “nose like a mechanical goose” or something goose-like.
I Googled “turn of the century cars” and…
…well, I don’t see the resemblance.
There were a few other examples of strange writing that took me out of the story, such as something curving in “graceful sinuosity” and person crumpling like a “soggy playing card.” I get not wanting to use a common simile like crumpling like a rag doll, but sometimes the writing felt like the author was really stretching to find a unique way to describe things.
Also, Elena really didn’t seem to be traumatized after spending years as a frog, and, while I know therapy wasn’t really a thing in the 1800s or whatever, I couldn’t stop thinking about how she should be a little screwed up because of it.
I was entertained enough by the plot, though it’s fairly slow moving. There is a lot of technical-sounding wine details that lead me to believe the author did her research, so I applaud that. It was interesting to have a fantasy book focus on what I assume are accurate facts about how to raise grapes for winemaking.
There’s a bit of action tacked on near the end and some references to other types of witches. I have to say, I wasn’t really intrigued by the cast or what was happening to anyone other than Elena. The end felt rushed and there’s a twist crammed in, but it wasn’t shocking enough for me to really be satisfied with the book.
I’d recommend The Vine Witch if you’re looking for a turn of the century fantasy with a focus on wine-based magic. Or if you like romance lite. There’s nothing steamy about this book, but there’s some tension and it keeps the book from being a full-on fantasy. So if you like that sort of thing, this may be right up your alley. It’s probably a great read for the beach when you have some wine to sip on!