The story is set in France in the early days of the motor car. The story opens with Elena, having been cursed by a wicked spell, in the form of a toad. She has spent a few years languishing in a stinking swamp, using her magical knowledge and power to regain her normal, witchly form. She walks back to her home vineyard to be welcomed by her Grand-Mèr, who brought her up after she was orphaned.
In these days, there are witches to help their mortal friends to be better at everything they do: wine fermentation, brewing of beers, baking of fine pastries, production of magical perfumes, to name a few. There are huge rivalries involved, some of which are quite deadly. Why can’t the vine witches collaborate for the success of the whole region rather than battle, valley against valley, vineyard against vineyard? Because, without those vicious conflicts, there would be no story.
There is plenty of high tension. There are lots of twists and turns. I was continually wondering how Elena was ever going to get out of a very challenging, life-threatening situation only to be delighted by the creative magical device or guileful ploy that secures her escape. Right to the very end, there are unexpected twists.
I was left wondering if Luanne Smith is, herself, a witch. She certainly appears to have great knowledge of witchcraft, which she imparts with great integrity. I wouldn’t risk crossing her for fear of the consequences.
I recommend this book. It kept me gripped from beginning to end and was thoroughly entertaining.
Book two: The Glamourist
Book three: The Conjuror