Monday, April 20, 2020

Review: The Vine Witch - Luanne G. Smith

The Vine Witch
by Luanne G. Smith
Published October 1st 2019

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

5 Stars
The Vine Witch is a magical adventure in turn-of-the-century France where witches are depended upon for their special talents in the vineyards. Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel believes in science, he knows he can produce a perfect wine at Château Renard just as the vignerons of the past, he doesn't need a witch. Elena Boureanu doesn't give him the option of accepting her help though, even if she has to lie about her talents. After spending seven years cursed she'd do anything to return Château Renard to its glory days and exact the revenge she's had far too much time to think about. There's something sinister happening in the Chanceaux Valley though, more than gargoyles and shadow spells, and Elena will have to turn to her ancient vine-witch lessons to save the vineyards, Jean, and the legacy of vine-witches everywhere.

"Intuition knows the truth when heard, but the sound can leave a terrible ringing in the ears."

I haven't reached for a fantasy novel in a long time, but The Vine Witch reminded me of why I love the genre so much. For the hours I read time was suspended, I was no longer in my warm home in California, but rather walking the sprawling acres of vineyards and cobblestone streets. The storytelling is rich and ambient, with multidimensional characters, a gorgeous setting, and just the right mixture of mystery, romance, and suspense. I loved the historical details too, I could picture the entire novel happening in real life, like it was more than just folklore. Elena's return to Château Renard finds the world changed, science has taken over and automobiles threaten those who still travel by horse and foot. We aren't taken on a long winded story about her adjustments, no there is no time for that. This fast paced story finds Elena unraveling spells, plotting deadly revenge, on the run from law enforcement, and learning the power of friendship, family, love and the magic that can be used for good and evil.

"She gave the wine a swirl, and Jean-Paul knew if there was ever magic in the world it was in that glass of perfectly blended seven-year-old pinot noir."

What started quite slowly, and in a very unique way, soon grasped my attention and had me turning page after page as quickly as possible. The Vine Witch is quite short, but the descriptive storytelling by Luanne G. Smith more than paints a picture, you can quite literally taste the bakery treats and feel the heavy weight of shadow vision. I need never try a bug, Elena has done so for me. If you're looking for your next spellbinding read, The Vine Witch is at the top of my recommendation list. Grab some wine and dive into this rich and complex novel. While this is a standalone novel, I cannot wait to read the next two novels in the series, each featuring a character we meet in The Vine Witch with backstories I cannot wait to learn about.

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