Monday, October 19, 2009

"Flesh and Fire"

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the bestselling Retrievers novels as well as The Vineart War trilogy. Her short fiction has appeared in major anthologies and magazines, running the spectrum from mainstream to science fiction to horror.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Flesh and Fire, the first of The Vineart War books, and reported the following:
The world of Flesh and Fire is an alternate 14th century, where the religion and culture of the ‘civilized nations’ are based around the use of spellwines, crafted by an elite – and isolated – group of magicians known as Vinearts. Vinearts maintain magic, the Lords hold political and military power, and the Washers maintain the balance between them, and keep the common people safe from both sides. It’s a system that has worked for almost two thousand years.

Into this society comes Jerzy, a young slave only recently discovering his own magic. In a normal time, his life would be simple, if rewarding, and he would always know his place within the world. But it’s not a normal time…

Page 69 of Flesh and Fire shows Jerzy thrown into a situation both new to him and new to his world, as Vinearts did not learn fighting skills, traditionally. Is this indicative of the entire book? It certainly sets much of the tone, since how he reacts to is telling, and indicates how he will react to all that will come his way in the near future….

His first test does not go too well.

Master Malech chuckled, as though Cai had said something amusing, and left them to it. Jerzy stared at Cai, half fascinated but slightly uncertain.

“Master Vineart was right: you stand like a slave, not a man, and certainly not like a magician! We’ll begin at once, and soon your body will have the right of it. Ready yourself, boy!”

Jerzy had no time to ask what he was to ready himself for before Cai had him in the air and landing hard on the morning-cool flagstones.

“Up. Again. Be ready this time.”

The book isn’t just about growing up, although it’s certainly a coming-of-age novel in many ways. Fantasy, at its heart, is about discovery: both of yourself, and the deeper magics of the world around you. In Flesh and Fire, the world itself is changing under stresses both external and internal, and all the characters – not only Jerzy – must learn to rethink themselves both in light of who they were, and who they wish to be – and what legacy they want to leave to their world.
Read an excerpt from Flesh and Fire, and learn more about the book and author at Laura Anne Gilman's website and blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue