The Vintner’s Luck, Elizabeth Knox

I am being awesome at the Graphic Novels Challenge but completely falling down on the other ones.  Women Unbound, nothing since The Group though in fact I suppose I could have used The Opposite House.  Or, hey, Committed!  Actually, Committed totally is one.  I’m going back and editing that post and using Committed for the Women Unbound Challenge.  Time Traveling, couldn’t manage to get anywhere with the Stephen Fry.  And Horns and Halos?  UTTERLY have not read anything for it.  I started and stopped Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, and that is it.

Until now!

The Vintner’s Luck is about a nineteenth-century French vintner (you saw that coming) who once a year meets with an angel called Xas.  Xas is a particular case, a treaty between God and Lucifer, his body signed with the words “Xas can go freely”, and he meets with Sabron each year.  They meet for the first time when Sabron is eighteen and cannot decide whether to get married, and Xas tells him he will be married to the girl the next time they meet.  For angel-type advice?  This is not very good.  Celeste is all crazy in the head.  In spite of this Sobran persists in thinking of Xas as good luck, and they meet every year on the same day and eventually fall in love.  (Sort of.)  (There are complications to this.)

For a while I was struggling to get interested.  The book is organized in chapters for each year, and at first the only thing that happens in each chapter is the meeting between Xas and Sobran.  It’s confusing, and you never know what’s been going on for the rest of the year, and that makes it hard to relate to the characters at the beginning of the book.  Then at the end of the book, there are too many characters (Sobran has a ridiculous number of children; I felt like Emerson talking to Evelyn and Walter), and I had trouble keeping them straight.

Still, in the middle, good stuff happened.  I liked this book more than I can think of nice things to say about it.  I can think of maybe two stars’ worth of good things to say about it (treaty angel was an interesting idea, I liked the relationship that developed oh-so-slowly between Aurora and Xas and Sobran), but in fact I give it three stars.  Which isn’t bad, but I hope for better things subsequently in this challenge.

Other reviews:

Care’s Online Book Club
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
just add books
Libri Touches
A Striped Armchair

Did I miss yours?  Tell me and I will add a link!

  • I read this book years ago and loved it. I tried reading it again back in November and couldn’t finish it. I know there’s a sequel of the book coming out. I may give it one more try later on. Great review.

    • A sequel, really? Is it set in the modern day like the last chapter of this one, or does it go back in time and follow Xas from Sobran’s death onward? I would definitely give a sequel a try.

  • I heard so many people talking about this book and I never had any idea it was a fantastical book. I thought it was like a realistic drama. How weird what our perceptions are. It probably would have helped had I looked up what a Vintner was. I thought that was a last name…yeah. I’ve got to say the book interests me much less now. :/

    • To me, the angel thing was interesting but the vintner thing put me off. I’m not the hugest wine person. I mean I like drinking it but I don’t know anything about it. I thought that Knox did a good job imagining the spiritual realms and dealing with different things like atheism, so as far as that goes, it had fantastical elements but I didn’t feel like it was that much of a fantasy. If that makes sense.

  • I have this book! I want to read it, but haven’t quite yet. I look forward to it 🙂

    I am also failing with Women Unbound- mostly because the non-fiction books I have decided to read do not currently appeal to me.

    • My nonfiction books totally do appeal to me, but I keep forgetting to get them at the library. I’d forgotten I made a list for that challenge; I should go back and consult it. I think I may have deviated from it sort of a lot. 😛

  • What’s so fun about reading reviews of this book is that I have to keep going back to mine to remember what it’s about! I liked the book more because it was so different for me. Sometimes that reason works against my liking but this one, it helped. I wonder what that is and why I don’t seek out more books like this?

    • Yeah, actually, I think the reason I kept going with this book when it was boring at the start is that it’s different to a lot of the stuff I read. I would have normally written it off when it was slow to begin. That’s one thing I love about challenges! They give me a motivation to read slightly different books to my normal fare.

  • I’ve been doing decently in most of my challenges, but need to spend more time on my own challenges. 🙂 It’s kind of funny that they are the ones I haven’t gotten to yet.

    • Yeah, I haven’t done anything AT ALL for my time travel one, which makes that one the only challenge I haven’t yet started. I wanted to start with the old old book about the time-traveling angel, but I’m having trouble setting up an interlibrary loan account.

  • Eva

    I haven’t read any books for this challenge yet either! Eek! I think I’ll go for the graphic novel version of Gaiman’s Murder Mysteries, since it’s one of my fave short stories ever.

    • Murder Mysteries is next on my list! It’s one of my favorite works by Gaiman. I shelve my books from right to left based on how much I love them, and on my Gaiman shelf, Murder Mysteries is left of Neverwhere and Sandman but none of the others.

  • I’ve had this book for ages and have not yet got around to reading it. I have heard mixed reviews with some people loving it and others, not so much. I figure it’s one of those novels that you have to be in the right mood for. Still intrigued to get it out one day and give it a try!

    • I kept thinking I would like this one better if I were in a different mood, but even not exactly being in the mood, I still enjoyed it a lot. I hope you like it when you do get a chance to read it!

  • trapunto

    Wasn’t this the weirdest book? I know what you mean about liking it more than you have nice things to say about it. I thought it was really excellent when I read it a couple of years ago, but now all I can think is, “It was really sexy. And poignant. And then suddenly it was all bloody and sadistic. But that was poignant too. Only mean. And I think meant to be sexy. But it it wasn’t. And they swig an awful lot of wine out of the bottle. Don’t the French get hangovers?”

    Have you read any other Knox? I think she is a fantastic writer, but I always end up in a a kind of quizical discomfort as she gets wrapped up in her own dark drama and starts rushing through the plot. The exception are her YA fantasies. Those are pretty much perfect. They are probably overshadowing some of my positive memories of Vintner’s Luck.

    • No, I’ve never read anything by Knox. I had the impression this was the only one of her books in print in America. She’s Australian, right?

      • She’s from New Zealand. I think. I’m pretty sure.

      • Care – You’re right! New Zealand it is. I stand corrected. 🙂

    • trapunto

      Antipodinal. Yes. I have theories about that.

      Actually, I think all or most of her books are in print here, but they were obscure until her YA books came out. Are you in for a treat! I intentionally reign myself in when talking about these books because I am aware they bring the mad gleam of the fanatic to my eye. They are: Dreamhunter, and Dreamquake. The only thing is, if you start Dreamhunter, you have get past the first 3 or 4 chapters before you start reaping the rewards. Before then it can be a little wordy and hard to sort out.

      • Mad gleam of the fanatic, you say? Okay, I’m going to get these books. I always want to read books other people are fanatic about. Turns out my library has these books, so I will get them next time I am there!

  • I read this for the New Zealand Challenge – that’s how I know.

    and I like that phrase, too! “Mad Gleam of the Fanatic”. It could be a blog name.

  • Thanks for the link! I agree with you re: too many characters – after a while, I gave up even trying to keep the kids straight. My favorite part of the whole thing, though, was the cosmology of heaven and hell and god and satan that Knox presents – I’m a big sucker for that kind of religion-centric fiction.

    • I thought that was really cool, that whole mythology she came up with. I loved it that destroyed originals ended up in heaven, and there were copies of everything in hell. Actually I was hoping to learn more about that, because that may have been my favorite aspect of the book.

  • Somehow, from what you tell me, I don’t get the vibe of this book at all.

    • It’s pretty difficult to convey the sense of this book. It’s pretty strange and unexpected. Sorry I didn’t do a better job conveying it!

  • Hi Jenny,

    Great review. I have got this book on my list for the H & H challenge and attempted to read it a while back after hearing how much Memory for the blog Stella Matutina loved it – it seemed interesting but I had to send it back to the library – d’oh. It may come up later on though, as I read a few more.

    I’m going to be doing an update on the Horns and Halos challenge soon – maybe discussing the levels we’re at, how we feel about the books so far, what we want more out of and whether we’ve had to question the BIG ISSUES like sin, redemption, the fallen etc etc.

    x
    Aimee

    • Oh, goody! I’m looking forward to seeing the update, and I’ll try to read at least one more book for the challenge this week, so I can make a reasonable update post. 😛

  • I’m also rocking the Graphic Novels Challenge and falling behind on some other ones.

    • I have to get my act together! The hostess of the Horns & Halos Challenge is about to do an update post! 😛