Once again we are thrust into the Lands Vin in the second installment of Larua Anne Gilman’s Vineart War series, Weight of Stone (see my review of the first novel, Flesh and Fire, here). The likeable Jerzy, protagonist and Vineart apprentice of the House of Malech, is back again to fight the distant forces of evil that threaten the very livelihood that keep the Lands Vin together: the magic of the Vinearts and their spellwines. Excited to continue this fantastic story of sci-fi/fantasy, I dove in to Weight of Stone with high expectations.
We first encounter Jerzy as a fugitive from justice, as he is accused of being apostate (breaking the command of Sin Washer by using Vineart magic improperly). The penalty of such an offense is death, but he had been daringly rescued by his friends Ao and Mahault before he could be tried and executed. Now on the open sea and on the run from the Washers, who hope to capture him and bring him up against charges of being apostate, Jerzy is thrown into completely unfamiliar surroundings with only Ao and Mahault to turn to. Fortunately for them, they are discovered (inadvertently with the help of Jerzy’s quiet magic) by Kainam, former heir to Atakus, the great trading port of the Lands Vin. He too has felt the evil that seems to be lurking and growing stronger by the moment, and chose to leave and discover its origin rather than hide as those on his island home have done. Now that their group is four strong, Jerzy finds new courage and eventually comes back to the Berengia, and to Master Malech. Unfortunately, not all is well, and we are introduced to the source of “the Taint” in this novel. A cast-off people with a leader known as Ximen and a Vine-Mage (yes, they are not all destroyed!) hash out a living in a far away land known as the Abandoned Land. While most of the inhabitants of this community are ignorant of the plans, both Ximen and the Vine-Mage have plans that threaten the very safety of the entire Lands Vin. Can Jerzy and Master Malech stop them? Will his new-found friends be able to assist him in his ultimate goal?
Gilman really knows how to pull me in to a novel. After slowly building suspense throughout the first half of the work (with a couple of action sequences thrown in for good measure), she really lets it go on the second half. Once Jerzy was back at the Berengia and working with Master Malech again, the conflict with the Taint really started to heat up. She does such a great job fleshing out these characters, especially Jerzy, so that you can’t help but become really attached to them. Her character development is phenomenal, and I’ve always thought that this is a key part of storytelling. Good development means more interest in the characters, which leads to more interest in the plot line, which makes the entire book more enjoyable. As such, I couldn’t help but be shocked and dismayed at the loss of a major character later on in the novel (of course I won’t tell you who it is, you’ll just have to find out for yourself!). This added an emotional depth to the work that I didn’t see coming at all. It made Jerzy’s purpose that more important, and his goal that much more urgent. After this book we truly know what we’re up against, and it will be an all out battle in the third book to bring the evil forces of the Vine-Mage and Ximen to a close. I truly cannot wait to dive into the third installment, The Shattered Vine, and I can only hope that Gilman makes it just as exciting and captivating as this work has been.
5 out of 5 Stars
Weight of Stone by Laura Anne Gilman
Pocket Books (2011)
Paperback 480 pages
Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me my review copy!